Secrecy & Leaks

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times Weighs In

By Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, April 29, 2015, 2:34 PM

The estimable Mark Mazzetti---the New York Times national security reporter who wrote the story over the weekend that prompted the outing-CIA-officers flap---writes in with the following note in response to my post this morning reflecting on Jack's interview with Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet:

You summarized Dean's points pretty well, but I would strongly emphasize another point.

These individuals have ascended into the most senior jobs at the agency, jobs that historically have been overt jobs. The head of the Counterterrorism Center is responsible for a staff of over 1,000 officers, and manages a budget of more than $1 billion. It’s a departure for the head of the CTC to be an undercover officer. Rober Grenier, who was Mike D’Andrea’s predecessor at CTC, was not undercover in the job.  Remember how famous CTC Chief Cofer Black became after the September 11 attacks, when he was quoted about how al Qaeda operatives would have “flies on their eyeballs?” The CIA even arranged for Bob Woodward to interview Cofer Black---and some of Black’s deputies---for Woodward’s book “Bush at War.”

The head of the Directorate of Operations is an even more striking case. The person in that job has almost never been undercover. Of course George Tenet called Greg Vogel “Greg V.” in his memoir---a book that was cleared through the agency's Publications Review Board---so the agency has already taken the first steps toward making his name public to all.

I’ve spoke to many, many former CIA officer who believe it is wrong for the senior most CIA officials to remain undercover. They said that when they got to the 7th floor, it used to be a requirement that they had their cover lifted because they had become senior representatives of the agency.

Obviously, it’s the prerogative of the CIA to make its own decisions about whether to lift cover identities or not---and believe me, no decisions we make about publishing names are taken lightly. But we also have to consider that what is going on now is something of a change of practice for the agency. These officers are no longer out in the field running sources. They have become managers of an extremely important lethal program that has become embedded in the new American way of war.