The Obama administration is adopting three new safeguards to prevent the accidental identification of key national security personnel but won't fire anyone over last month's outing of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan, the White House said Wednesday.
The safeguards grew out of a review the White House asked its top lawyer, Neil Eggleston, to conduct after the CIA chief's name was released to thousands of reporters during President Barack Obama's surprise trip to Bagram Air Field. Eggleston presented his findings Tuesday to White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, who accepted them, the White House said, adding that Obama had also been informed.
The new safeguards:
— Requiring White House schedulers and staffers who travel to foreign sites ahead of a presidential visit to meet with participants of upcoming presidential meetings, so those participants have an opportunity to object to their names being released to the media.
— Clearing the names of participants with the White House's National Security Council prior to release.
— Providing further training to White House travel staff about proper handling of sensitive information.
No officials will be fired or disciplined as a result of the incident in Afghanistan, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. He added that the review was "not focused on trying to isolate specific wrongdoing because the disclosure was inadvertent." Intentionally disclosing the name of a covert operative is a crime under the U.S. Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
"In all of these circumstances we are balancing our commitment to transparency with the need to protect some information for national security reasons," Earnest said.
The officer's name was mistakenly included by U.S. Embassy staff on a list of American officials who met with Obama during his brief 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 estimated 6,000 email addresses on the White House "press pool" distribution list.
The Associated Press, along with the Post and other news organizations, is withholding the officer's name at the request of the Obama administration, which said its publication could endanger the officer's life and that of his family.
After the incident, the White House said Eggleston was looking into it and would make recommendations for averting such disclosures. The review was one of Eggleston's first tasks since Obama tapped him in April to head the White House's legal team.
- Associated Press