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."