Last month, the New York Times incredibly posted the name of the Central Intelligence Agency’s, (CIA) top operative overseeing the agency’s efforts in Iran. The Times justified its outing of this undercover and career CIA agent and his role within the agency by saying it was necessary since the agent is “leading an important new administration initiative against Iran.”
Does this sound remotely correct, even in today’s skewed view of journalistic integrity? And yet very little is being said about what is a clear-cut case of endangering this man’s life as well as his family’s.
The CIA goes to great lengths to protect their people’s identities from unauthorized disclosure. And for a very good reason. Outing the undercover agent as the New York Times did immediately puts his or her life in danger and blows the lid on whatever cover operation he was operating under.
The Times stated that despite the CIA’s request not to publish the name, editors decided to publish because the individual is “a senior official who runs operations from Langley, not out in the field. He is the architect of the drone program, one of the government’s most significant paramilitary programs. The American public has a right to know who is making life-or-death decisions in its name.”
That is the flimsiest excuse that we’ve heard and the American public doesn’t have the right to know who the undercover operative is. Does the public need to know that the government is using a drone program to find and target terrorist leaders? Yes absolutely. But we don’t need to know who the man’s identity is that is running the program nor the man or woman operating the drone.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said the decision to publish the operative’s name was “unconscionable” during a question and answer session at the Aspen Security Forum.
The NY Times said in their piece in which they outed the agent, named Michael D’Andrea that Iran is “one of the hardest targets” for the CIA to keep tabs on.
“The agency has extremely limited access to the country — no American embassy is open to provide diplomatic cover — and Iran’s intelligence services have spent nearly four decades trying to counter American espionage and covert operations,” the Times added.
So apparently it will be now even harder to penetrate the Iranian apparatus due to the Times reckless action, which indeed puts D’Andrea’s life in danger. But the main question is why? Why did the NY Times jeopardize the entire CIA-Iran operation and this agent’s life? Could politics be a reason to out the man to a nation who is the leading state sponsor of terrorism? Yes indeed.
The government of President Trump has been more than clear that they intend to pursue a much harder line against Tehran than the previous administration of President Obama. The Obama government sought to normalize relations with Tehran by giving it billions of dollars to the Iranians, trading terrorists for hostages, and blessing its nuclear program that Tehran made clear in the past would be used against Israel all the while excoriating the US in the media.
One publication recently cited D’Andrea’s portrayal in the film “Zero Dark Thirty” as a possible motive. In the film, he’s described only as “The Wolf” and is reportedly a hawk on the subject of Iran.
We’ve seen and read some talk that the talk of the danger to D’Andrea is negligible. That is hogwash. If there is any doubt as to Iran and their proxies Hezbollah’s threat, look no further than the case of Bill Buckley. Buckley was a former Army Green Beret and the Station Chief for the CIA in Beirut. He took over in 1983 and was in the process of building a new network of agents after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.
He was kidnapped by Hezbollah in 1984 and was tortured for 15 months. Hezbollah even sent a videotape of a torture session where Buckley, drooling, at times incoherent and rambling, admitted his CIA activities. His agents were quickly killed off in Beirut and Buckley was killed in captivity in June 1985.
In 2011 the US broke up an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to Washington by placing a bomb in a Georgetown restaurant where the Ambassador was to dine. D’Andrea is now the face of the operation going against the leading state sponsor of terrorism who already tried to plant a bomb in our nation’s capital. Is that dangerous enough?
Right after he was outed, a “Tehran blog” ran a picture of D’Andrea and a woman who was purported to be his wife. She’s a Muslim and D’Andrea met and married her while on another overseas assignment and converted to Islam in order to marry her. The not-so-subtle hint was that he and his family are now wanted by the Iranians.
The Times flimsy story also mentioned that D’Andrea’s name had already been outed back in 2015 as the head of the drone program. Well, they also deserve that dubious honor as well.
There will always be the invisible line between the public’s right to know about their government’s operations and the need for secrecy in the shadows for an intelligence organization to conduct operations.
The public’s right to know never supersedes the importance of protecting sources and methods. The lives of the intelligence operatives who work in the shadows should never be put in danger already more than they are, just by the very nature of their work. The men and women who are covert operatives of our government risk their lives daily for the people of the United States.
Risking their lives by publishing their names is unconscionable and no amount of ridiculous excuses is ever warranted when their veil of secrecy is involved. Doing so only weakens us as a nation and strengthens our enemies. Let’s hope that this foolhardy and dangerous action by the NY Times is never repeated. But something tells me that we will.
Photo Courtesy: CIA