Administration Blows Cover of Highest-Ranking CIA Operative in Afghanistan

Included name on list provided to thousands of journalists

The Obama administration blew the cover of the CIA “Chief of Station” in Afghanistan Saturday when it mistakenly included the officer’s name in a list of senior officials who participated in the president’s surprise Memorial Day weekend visit with U.S. troops.

The designation “Chief of Station” is used by the CIA for its highest-ranking operative in the region. After the list was provided to news organizations, including thousands of journalists, the administration realized the mistake and quickly sent out a revised version that excluded the operative’s name.

The Washington Post's Greg Miller reports

The list was circulated by e-mail to reporters who traveled to Afghanistan with Obama, and disseminated further when it was included in a “pool report,” or summary of the event meant to be shared with other news organizations, including foreign media, not taking part in the trip.

In this case, the pool report was filed by Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson. Wilson said he had copied the list from the e-mail provided by White House press officials. He sent his pool report to the press officials, who then distributed it to a list of more than 6,000 recipients.

When White House officials realized the error, they quickly distributed the revised list; however, by that time the list had already circulated on Twitter. The Post reports that the name of the "Chief of Station" was not specifically circulated on Twitter.

It is unclear if the mistake will force the CIA to remove the officer from Afghanistan as his name might already be known to Afghan officials and he might not be a part of covert operations outside the embassy:  

As the top officer in one of the agency’s largest overseas posts, with hundreds of officers, analysts and other subordinates, the station chief in Kabul probably has been identified to senior Afghan government officials and would not ordinarily take part in clandestine missions beyond the U.S. Embassy compound.

This is not the first time CIA chiefs of station have been exposed. Recently, three of chiefs in Pakistan were exposed, and in one case an officer had to be removed from the region after becoming the target of death threats.

In reporting the significant blunder, Miller of course made sure to highlight the well-known example of the Bush administration blowing the cover of CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose husband was critical of the decision to invade Iraq.