National Security

NY Times Flounders in Attempt to Justify Outing of CIA Operative

“It also begs the question as to how much the national security team responsible for this line of reporting really understands the world with which they are charged to be experts.” 

Recently, CIA Director Mike Pompeo publicly admonished the New York Times for its release of the name of an undercover agency officer responsible for thwarting threats from one of America’s highest profile enemies. While Pompeo’s acknowledgement and aggressive chiding hit the right tone, the response from the Times was a muddled mess.

This latest violation of the law is another stain on the once great publication’s resume. The attempt by the Times to justify the choice raises further questions about its decision making as an institution. And it marginalizes the reputations of their own reporters, who, like the individual whose life they have now further jeopardized, are also risking their lives in war zones outside the safety of a news desk.

Though the Times has argued it was not in the wrong, a violation did occur, and we will not continue the wrong here at OpsLens by providing any links to the story nor references and roles that person serves within the agency. Actually, we may unfortunately have to use the past tense “served” in reference to the named individual very soon given the exposure.

What we will link to is the law that will show in no uncertain terms that the revelation of classified information is a felony and remind you that there is no carve out for the media. Even an outlet that takes it upon itself to determine whose lives matter. You see, the Times would have you believe that two wrongs make a right in these matters. For when it comes to national security, what is supposed to be one of the most elite intellectual outlets in the world has relegated itself to schoolyard reasoning.

“But so and so already did it, so we can do it too.”

This is an argument that is made even more laughable due to the fact that in this case the “so and so” is the same offender, as the Times cited its own previous violation of law as justification for this latest offense. But read between the lines here and what’s really being argued is that they already got away with it once. And shame on the rule of law for that part.

As the language clearly states, the penalty for committing this felony in particular is up to ten years in prison. But if our legal system refuses to enforce the law, can you blame a repeat offender?

The Times did not rest on that lone explanation in its feckless effort to brand their work on this matter as noble. In its response to Director Pompeo, the list continues on to argue that the location whereby this person conducts their work essentially nullifies the need to protect their identity. Ultimately the takeaway here is that the base of this role is not in the geographic proximity of the enemy. Therefore, the suggestion is that the individual is not and cannot be in jeopardy at their current location.

Another meatless salvo and perhaps the most bizarre of its arguments.

It also begs the question as to how much the national security team responsible for this line of reporting really understands the world with which they are charged to be experts. Certainly those who know this issue inside and out grasp the global scale and reach of our conflicts with adversaries.

We can be sure then that the publication would have no qualms about identifying the whereabouts of a certain other felon as he enjoys asylum in a certain vodka loving nation. After all, the “work” being done by him is also outside of the central target of his “mission.”

The argument further frays as the Times cites the individual’s alleged work and role on another matter, separate and not relative to their current charge, to justify identifying the officer’s work being done in this case. As the previous matter has no relation to the current one at hand, we will also not go into further detail on it. It is this part of the argument too that exposes the superiority with which the Grey Lady operates.

You see this matter is justified because, in its own words, the reporting team “believes” it to be so. OJ also believes he’s innocent of murder so it must be true. Therefore, hear this Americans — what a group of writers thinks, regardless of the realities and rule of law, is what matters. To quote one of the Times’ media colleagues from the TV side of the house during his interview of a neophyte vice presidential candidate a decade ago, that takes some hubris, doesn’t it?

It’s not only the work being done by this individual who swore an oath to protect Americans (even those Americans in the media who make it harder to do so) that stands to be marginalized by this careless reporting. It also puts the work being done by the violating reporters’ very own colleagues at risk. The ones who risk their lives in the same manner as our undercover operatives to bring the story on world events to you. So too do they go to great lengths to protect sources of their own.

Those instances of sound and accurate reporting on matters of national security would not be made possible without the ability to manage these sources with the same protections that they have taken the liberty of stripping from another. If only they would afford the same respect to those whose work allows them to do theirs, perhaps the superiority which they seek to maintain would be earned and not questioned.

Brandon Blackburn

Brandon Blackburn is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and former CIA Counterterrorism Officer with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and an MBA with a concentration in International Business. During his time with the CIA, Brandon served multiple tours in the Middle East, to include Iraq and Jordan, and in Afghanistan. Brandon consults with businesses and media on national security related issues with his consulting firm B4B Enterprises. Blackburn is also a consulting producer for Live PD on A&E. He can be followed on Twitter @Bran_Blackburn.

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