Obama taps top White House lawyer to look into how CIA chief's name was revealed

Ken Dilanian / The Associated Press
May 26, 2014 08:51 AM

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's top lawyer will look into how the name of the CIA's top official in Afghanistan was accidently revealed to thousands of journalists, the White House said Tuesday.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says chief counsel Neil Eggleston will also make recommendations for how to ensure such a disclosure doesn't happen again.

The officer's name was included by U.S. Embassy staff on a list of American officials who met with Obama on Sunday during a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

The White House provided the list to a Washington Post reporter who was representing the news media on the trip. The reporter, as is typical under those circumstances, then sent the list to the White House "press pool" list. An estimated 6,000 email addresses are on that distribution list.

The Associated Press is withholding the officer's name at the request of the Obama administration, which said its publication could put his life and the lives of his family members in danger.

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken indicated in a TV interview that the outing of the CIA official was worrisome.

"It shouldn't have happened. We're trying to understand why it happened," Blinken said on CNN's "Situation Room."

Blinken declined to say whether the CIA official was being moved out of the country for his safety.

The officer named — identified as "chief of station" in Kabul — was among those of 15 senior American officials who met with President Obama during the visit at Bagram Air Field.

White House officials realized the error after the Post reporter notified them, and sent out a new list without the station chief's name. Other major news organizations, including the Post, have also agreed not to publish the officer's name.

The intentional disclosure of the name of a "covered" operative is a crime under the U.S. Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

Addressing the disclosure is one of the first tasks for Eggleston, who recently joined the White House to head its legal team.

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