07 January 2010

Honor the Service of the Fallen CIA Operatives

We at Al Sahwa honor the service of the fallen CIA operatives, but it is now our great concern that the spider-web established by them may be vulnerable.

The NY Times today, in an article entitled, “Suicide Bombing Puts a Rare Face on C.I.A.’s Work,” reported several of the names of CIA operatives killed in Afghanistan by a Jordanian double agent, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, stating that elements “…have begun to trickle out, despite the secretive nature of their work. What emerges is a rare public glimpse of a closed society, a peek into one sliver of the spy agency as it operates…”

CIA Director Leon Panetta, in his 31 December, 2009 “Statement on CIA Casualties in Afghanistan,” stated, “Due to the sensitivity of their mission and other ongoing operations, neither the names of those killed nor the details of their work are being released at this time.” I have read no announcement by Panetta or his colleague(s), including President Obama, which has identified the names of Khowst Afghanistan operatives as well as their detailed mission objectives.

President Obama has said himself, “You have served in the shadows, and your sacrifices have sometimes been unknown to your fellow citizens, your friends, and even your families…Your triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow Americans, but your service is deeply appreciated.”

I ask as Josh did in his 10 December post on news coverage of Blackwater - “Why?” Author and former CIA officer, Joseph Weisberg, in his 27 August, 2007, NY Times article entitled, “The C.I.A.’s Open Secrets,” stated, “If the government openly admitted various C.I.A. activities, even those that are already well-known, it could also precipitate a great deal of negative news coverage in the foreign press.”

The security of this nation, and for that matter the security of other nations, depends also on the cooperation of the media community. Of course it is one’s job to report newsworthy information in an unbiased, objective, and timely manner, but it is just as much one’s job to use discretion in reporting: Even though a reporter(s) discovered the name(s) of CIA operatives, it does not mean the public needs to know [at this time].

Evan Thomas, an historian and journalist who wrote an anecdotal account of “Gaining Acces to CIA’s Records,” stated, “Sources and methods must be protected, even from many decades ago, and there is a certain tradition to consider.” Speaking at a 21 May, 2007 event “Adding Four Stars to Memorial Wall,” then-Agency Director, General Michael V. Hayden, shared, “Our enduring aspiration as an Agency is to honor their memory. We do so by continuing the mission they served so faithfully.” Two of the four stars were of officers who died in 1957 and 1960, 47-50 years before the event. Additionally, one star was for an officer who died more recently in 2005 while the last remains classified.

The mission of the CIA ought to be respected in cases such as these, as news coverage of this nature can potentially – (probably) actually – harm others. In the type of atmosphere such men and women work in, we all can not project the impact this will have on streams of intelligence and/or the social reputation of the Agency in the foreign region. It is within reason to gather and disseminate intelligence on planned future attempts that target this spider-web, specifically Haqqani.

Please see Bill Roggio's fine slideshow/presentation on the Haqqani network in Afghanistan from the Long War Journal while we recall his comment that "The Haqqanis hold major clout on both sides of the border; and through Siraj’s leadership, the group provides a “critical bridge” to Pakistani Taliban groups and al Qaeda linked foreign fighters."


  1. Today's article by the NY Times is an example of irresponsible reporting that should not be tolerated by anyone who truly appreciates the importance of the CIA's work overseas. As DP points out the work of the CIA is important and should be respected. These men and women often find themselves behind enemy lines, hiding in the shadows and dealing with unsavory characters all in the name of national security. Its a shame that a newspaper that attempts to portray itself as a legitimate source of news would stoop to such a low tactic of reporting. The NY Times should be lambasted by all who appreciate and understand the delicate and dangerous activities that members of the US intelligence community embark on.

  2. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 01/08/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  3. Quick question - does the distinguished gentleman who wrote this article have any recollection of the Valerie Plame Wilson affair? Correct me if I'm wrong, but is it supposed to be honorable when our own government gives up those in covert situations? Does government stature make it valid? We now know that this came as retribution for inconvenient facts concerning their own lies to the public, but to "lambaste" a news agency for their reporting without taking the previous administration into account is biased. Let's not forget, members of the previous administration (as well as the new one) are human beings just like you and me, and they should be held responsible for their actions just as we are (the little people). If D.P. believes in people power, then he should consider the voices of individuals who have spoken in response to the falsehoods and lies that led us into this unfolding tragedy in the first place. Let's also not forget that the history of US foreign policy and CIA activity in the region serves as the "germinator"; the root cause of the problems we currently face. Where's the historical perspective in this blog?

  4. B. Kinney has, along with the New York Times, apparently failed to show any integrity or wisdom with regard to those who serve in clandestine opereations on behalf of insuring security for all of us back here living quite freely in the USA. In your comment above you said "...consider the voices of individuals who have spoken in response to the falsehoods and lies that led us into this unfolding tradegy in the first place. Let's also not forget that the history of US foreign policy and CIA activity in the region serves as the "germinator"; the root cause of the problem we currently face." In effect you are calling the CIA operatives that were murdered by a terrorist "liars" and that they are the root cause of the problems we currently face!!! I think you and the NY Times should keep in mind who the enemy is. The real root of the problem (TERRORISTS) have killed our loved ones on American soil and foreign soil. Our military, CIA, and contractors all risk their lives 24 hours a day in hostile environments and situations, isn't the least you and the NY Times could do is keep silent. Remember, B. Kinney and the NY Times, "loose lips sinks ships" History is being unfolded before our very eyes and this blog seems to have a very good perspective of it.

  5. If you have not done so already, I think you will all benefit from reading an Op-Ed. from this weekend's NY Times by Robert Grenier entitled, "The Spies Who Got Left in the Cold."

    It discusses the challenges a case officer faces while dealing with principal agents and subagents as well as dubious characters.

    Above all, it drives home the values of the CIA, namely;

    All of which are exemplified through their
    COURAGE, and

  6. B. Kinney I agree that the previous administrations handling of the Plame affair was both misguided and irresponsible. However, the article DP referenced does not revolve around an administration but rather the idea of journalistic integrity. So yes, I do believe that the NY Times should be lambasted for their inappropriate reporting and utter disregard for the safety of the men and women who make sacrifices so people such as B. Kinney and I do not have to. I hope B. Kinney you are not a "conspiracy theorist" and will keep each post within an honest and fact based context.