Secrecy & Leaks

20 Senior Former CIA Officials Criticize NYT For Publishing Names of Covert Operatives

By Jack Goldsmith
Monday, May 11, 2015, 5:24 PM

Twenty senior former CIA officials—including every CIA Director (including DCIs) dating back to William Webster (1987-91)—wrote a letter to the NYT to take issue with NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet’s defense (in this interview on Lawfare) of his decision to publish the names of the three covert CIA operatives in a story a few weeks ago.

The thrust of their complaint:

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.

We respect the right of The Times to investigate and report on the government’s counterterrorism efforts. The media should question policy makers, including senior politically appointed leaders of the intelligence community, about these efforts.

But nothing is gained by “outing” career operations officers, who carry out such policies. They operate in the shadows, not because they want to; indeed, a life under cover can be enormously burdensome to family and loved ones. They operate in the shadows because we still need a small cadre of professionals who, when called upon, can operate in secret to protect the country.

I’ll have some thoughts on this issue soon.