New York Times vs. CIA: “An Old Debate Wrapped in New Clothes”

“Because it’s a military operation, I don’t think we can completely treat the people who run it purely as intelligence operatives. It moves into a different realm in the discussion as far as I’m concerned. It’s not like you’re exposing a wide undercover operation in Afghanistan. You’re writing about something that is generally done by the military, which I think means that the cloak of secrecy that usually we all allow for the CIA is a little more complicated.”

Dean Baquet — Executive Editor of the New York Times

“As the nation’s dominant news organization, The Times deserves, and gets, intensive scrutiny for how it has handled that story. The grades, clearly, are mixed. Its role in the run-up to the Iraq War has been rightly and harshly criticized. (…) But it’s certainly a healthy sign that The Times’s top editor and some of its key reporters are not only grappling with these issues, but are willing to do so publicly. In an era in which “trust us” — on the part of both the government and the media — hasn’t worked out too well, this discussion couldn’t be more important for American democracy and for We the People.”

Margaret Sullivan — Former Public Editor of The New York Times

Amy Fiscus — the NYT national security editor —  has just explained why The Times published the name of a C.I.A. official last month. The story is obviously reigniting an old debate. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

RELATED POST: Aspen Security Forum 2017 — CIA Director Mike Pompeo Full Interview

RELATED POST: Meet Trump’s new Iran Man: CIA Michael D’Andrea

RELATED POST: CIA “Roger”: Mike D’Andrea and the “Intelligence Identities Protection Act”

At the 2017 Aspen Security Forum last week (Thursday July 20 2017), the director of the C.I.A., Mike Pompeo, criticized The New York Times for a recent article about an officer who was tapped to run the agency’s Iran operations.

The operative’s name — Mike D’Andrea — was published in a June 2 2017 story. The Times said it was publishing the name because “the officer had previously been identified in other news reports and because the operative is leading an important new administration initiative against Iran.”

According to the NYT,  this promotion was ‘newsworthy’ because it is an indication of the hard-line against Iran that President Trump promised during his campaign.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo blasted the New York Times for publishing the name of the ‘undercover officer’ in charge of the agency’s Iran operations.

“I find that unconscionable.”

The audience applauded his statement after a brief period of silence. When Bret Stephens asked Pompeo if he were talking about Philip Agee, Pompeo seemed lost and replied: “I don’t know that name.”

There is little doubt that Pompeo was actually talking about Mike D’Andrea.

The NYT explains

Before the article was published, one of the reporters who worked on it informed the C.I.A. that it would include Mr. D’Andrea’s name — a routine check for comment that Times reporters make for the sake of fairness. The C.I.A. asked The Times not to publish his name, arguing that Mr. D’Andrea was under cover.

Times editors and reporters covering national security frequently discuss these sorts of issues and take into account the government’s arguments against publication. We take care not to put national security or lives in danger, and we take that concern very seriously.

In this case, editors decided to publish the name because Mr. D’Andrea is a senior official who runs operations from the agency’s headquarters outside Washington, not in the field. He is also the architect of the C.I.A.’s program to use drones to kill high-ranking militants, one of the government’s most significant paramilitary programs. We believe that the American public has a right to know who is making life-or-death decisions in its name.

It was also not the first time that Mr. D’Andrea’s name has been mentioned in our newspaper. After his identity was disclosed in a 2015 article, The Times’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, discussed the rationale in an interview with Lawfare, a website that covers national security law, and gave more insight into editors’ decision-making.

COMMENT

As I have written, the “Intelligence Identities Protection Act” does NOT apply to Mike D’Andrea. The 1982 ACT is very clear on who is a ‘covert agent’.

And D’Andrea does NOT fit the profile. He has been a bureaucrat since at least 2006!

The Act requires an active agent or an agent active in the last 5 years. [i.e. serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States]

An Old Debate

On April 25 2015, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo published a story in the New York Times about congressional and White House support for the CIA’s “targeted killing program.”

The timing was not accidental… A few days earlier, President Obama took responsibility for the deaths of two Western captives in an American drone strike in Pakistan.

The Times noticed that the “C.I.A. officers who built the program more than a decade ago — some of whom also led the C.I.A. detention program that used torture in secret prisons — have ascended to the agency’s powerful senior ranks.”

But both programs were led by some of the same people. The C.I.A. asked that Mr. D’Andrea’s name and the names of some other top agency officials be withheld from this article, but The New York Times is publishing them because they have leadership roles in one of the government’s most significant paramilitary programs and their roles are known to foreign governments and many others.

The Times decided to  identify three of these men by name.

Michael D’Andrea, a gaunt, chain-smoking convert to Islam who was chief of operations during the birth of the agency’s detention and interrogation program and then, as head of the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center, became an architect of the targeted killing program. Until last month, when Mr. D’Andrea was quietly shifted to another job, he presided over the growth of C.I.A. drone operations and hundreds of strikes in Pakistan and Yemen during nine years in the position.

As part of a bureaucratic reshuffling last month by John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, Mr. D’Andrea has been replaced as head of the drone program by Chris Wood. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Mr. Wood held leadership roles in Alec Station, the group that led the hunt for Qaeda suspects and was central to the interrogation program. He ultimately was in charge of that unit and would later serve as station chief in Kabul. Most recently, he supervised all operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Wood now runs a targeted killing program that is the subject of multiple investigations that Mr. Obama announced last week.

In a sign of the continued prominence of military operations inside the agency, Mr. Brennan recently named Greg Vogel, a former agency paramilitary officer, to take over the C.I.A.’s vaunted Directorate of Operations. That position has traditionally gone to C.I.A. officers who ascended the ranks because of their success in traditional espionage work. Mr. Vogel, identified in news accounts as “Spider” and in a memoir by the former C.I.A. Director George J. Tenet as “Greg V.,” was one of the first C.I.A. officers to enter Afghanistan when the war began in 2001. [NYT]

Robert Litt, the general counsel to the director of national intelligence, said publicly that The Times had “disgraced itself” by publishing the names, and had put those officers’ and their families’ lives at risk. [Secrets, the C.I.A. and The New York Times]

Twenty former C.I.A. officials signed a letter to The Times criticizing the decision.

“Officials who work on covert operations do not escape accountability. Their actions are carefully reviewed by the C.I.A.’s general counsel, the inspector general, White House officials, congressional overseers and Justice Department attorneys.

Indeed, some of the operations referred to by The Times have been discussed publicly by the president and are some of the most carefully overseen in our government.”

INTERVIEW with Dean Baquet, the Executive Editor of the Times

In April 2015, Jack Goldsmith — the Henry L. Shattuck Professor at Harvard Law School, co-founder of Lawfare, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution — discussed these and related issues with Dean Baquet, the Executive Editor of the Times and the person responsible for the newspaper’s decision to publish the names.

JG: Why did you publish the names of the undercover officers?

DB: Here’s why I thought we had to do it. I think this is largely a military operation. Since September 11, the CIA has started to play a little bit of a different role. And I think the drone program represents that in part. It’s a military operation. That’s the first thing.

JG: Why does that matter? Is that because a military operation is something that traditionally wasn’t covert?

DB: Yes, but that’s not the only reason. Because it’s a military operation, I don’t think we can completely treat the people who run it purely as intelligence operatives. It moves into a different realm in the discussion as far as I’m concerned. It’s not like you’re exposing a wide undercover operation in Afghanistan. You’re writing about something that is generally done by the military, which I think means that the cloak of secrecy that usually we all allow for the CIA is a little more complicated. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is: No matter what one thinks of the drone program, it is now one of the most hotly debated issues in national security It’s something the president has said we should talk about more. It’s something that some members of Congress have said we should talk about more. So suddenly the CIA is running a program that I think there is very much a public interest in us revealing very many details about.

JG: But that doesn’t quite answer the question of why you named the names.

DB: Now I’ll work my way to the names. This particular story was about accountability. The whole theme of the story was about accountability. It was not just an explanatory story about the drone program. It came three days after a very tragic event [the accidental killing of the American hostages] that raises fresh questions about the drone program. And I think our obligation in the story was to say: Here’s this program that is even more controversial now. How is it policed? Did Congress do what Congress says it’s going to do, which is to police the program, to provide oversight? Is there oversight? And I think we ran into one powerful fact. Some of the same people who were the architects of the “torture program” were also architects of the drone program. So now you’re writing a story about accountability for a program that has just had its most high-profile mistake, and you’re asking the question, “How accountable is the program?”  I think at that point you’ve got to write about the guy who runs it, especially because he’s the guy who helped craft another controversial program. That’s not a knock on him. But I think if you’re going to write about accountability, you have to include the name of the guy.

(…)

.JG: I think they arguably haven’t accepted that the terrain has changed in two ways. One, they don’t understand fully the implications of having become a military force. And also, they really haven’t absorbed – although they are aware of it obviously – that they live in a world where they simply can’t keep secrets like they used to, it’s just not going to happen.

DB: That’s right. I get where they are coming from. I don’t think they are bullshitting. I think they don’t quite understand. I found, when I was dealing with them after Snowden, that they would try to withhold things, and they wouldn’t want to talk about the programs. And I said, “Guys, that horse has long left the barn. You have to talk about the programs. We can’t be coy with each other.” It’s hard for them to accept. There was this tacit understanding that everything they did had to be in the shadows, and everything they did had to be secret, and I don’t think they now understand that with the case of drones, when they run what is largely a military program, I don’t think you can make the same demands about secrecy.

The interview has been reposted today (Monday July 24 2017) and can be read in full on the LAWFARE Website.

CIA DIRECTOR BLASTS NY TIMES FOR ENDANGERING CIA AGENT’S LIFE

REFERENCES

Why We Published the Name of a Covert C.I.A. Official — NYT July 22 2017

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New York Times vs. CIA: “An Old Debate Wrapped in New Clothes”

 

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One Response to New York Times vs. CIA: “An Old Debate Wrapped in New Clothes”

  1. mohandeer says:

    Reblogged this on Worldtruth and commented:
    If the accidental killing of two American citizens in a drone strike was important, does that mean the four wedding parties that were massacred in other indiscriminate drone strikes, are simply collateral damage, to be dismissed as unimportant?
    The US government has refused to pay compensation for the families(what remained of them) for the war crime committed against them. Two Americans dead and Congressional Oversight required. Two hundred wedding party attendees, with NO AQ affiliations dead and they are not worthy of a mention by Dean Baquet?
    Is this representative of US exceptionalism?
    Another phrase that springs to mind is US recidivist criminality, never spoken of in the MSM.

    Like

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