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article imageOp-Ed: Why did 6,000 reporters agree to keep a non-secret a secret?

By Ken Hanly     Jul 6, 2014 in Politics
Kabul - US cartoonist and journalist Ted Rall in a recent article wonders why 6,000 journalists agreed to keep secret the identity of the CIA station chief whose name was inadvertently revealed in an email to more than 6,000 plus reporters.
The incident happened when a list of officials who would be attending a surprise meeting with Obama and his troops in Afghanistan was distributed to reporters. The name of the chief of station in Kabul for the CIA was listed along with his position. When the error was noticed, the government asked the 6,000 journalists who received the list not to reveal the name and they agreed. A list with the name deleted was made public. However, as Rall points out it was already all over the internet. The government claims that not revealing the name was to protect the now former chief but immediately the name had been revealed he had been sent home to the US anyway.
Ted Rall is a well known US cartoonist who relishes in dissent and seems to specialize at times in politically incorrect remarks that can get both liberals and the right-wing upset. Rall was working for the Pando Daily on a story about the event in order to "stand for adversarial media".
He claims that credible media organizations do not protect government secrets or obey spy agencies. Or to quote Rall and his politically incorrect phrasing: Real journalists don’t cooperate with government — any government, anytime, for any reason. My editor and I believed that by demonstrating a little fearlessness, we might inspire other media outfits to grow a pair and stop sucking up to the government.
Of course reporters and media do cooperate with government often and for good reason. If they do not cooperate they will be cut off from leaks from the government that often provide them the basis for stories. They will lose their sources of information in the intelligence community if they fail to follow orders. Finally they will be tarnished as putting their own interest in stories above the security of the country. The media organization could fear lawsuits as well. Pando fired Rall along with a fellow journalist David Sirota.
I looked on the internet and there are actually two competing names for the CIA station chief in Kabul. One is here. The other is here. The seeming contradiction may be explained by the same person having changed his name when he returned to Afghanistan.
Rall thinks that it is an absurdity that all these journalists agreed to keep a secret that ceased to be a secret once they received the list and a name that is easily revealed in any search of the Internet and all "to curry favor with a government that routinely lies to reporters like them".
The fact that what they are told are lies may not matter as long as they are able to produce a story that collects lots of views and thus gains money from the advertisers that make the media possible. The intelligence community and police can often use leaks for their own purposes. The government can do the same. Some newspapers such as the New York Times even seem to have special relations with the government. In Canada the Maher Arar case is instructive: Arar was detained during a layover at John F. Kennedy International Airport in September 2002 on his way home to Canada from a family vacation in Tunis.[7] He was held without charges in solitary confinement in the United States for nearly two weeks, questioned, and denied meaningful access to a lawyer.[8] The US government suspected him of being a member of Al Qaeda and deported him, not to Canada, his current home and the passport on which he was travelling, but to Syria, even though its government is known to use torture.[9
Of course those were the days when Assad was a good bad guy whose regime was a favored choice for extraordinary renditions. A report by Justice O'Connor found that Arar had no connections with terrorism in spite of claims of our own and US intelligence. The commission also found that he was tortured. As a result of the torture he admitted to being an Al Qaeda recruit and to training in Afghanistan. These confessions were leaked to the press to discredit Arar: Arar's case reached new heights of controversy after reporter Juliet O'Neill wrote an article in the Ottawa Citizen on November 8, 2003, containing information leaked to her from an unknown security source, possibly within the RCMP. The secret documents provided by her source suggested Arar was a trained member of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell. No doubt as Rall claims the government and intelligence agencies often lie to reporters but they can do damage without directly lying simply by releasing selectively classified information without the appropriate context.
Rall notes that the names of Chiefs of Station(COS) are often known since they work out of the US embassy and have many connections. The previous Kabul COS had been outed in May on Facebook. Wikipedia even has a long list of people who are or were Chief of Station. Even if the Taliban know the names of a COS, they likely find tracking him or her more valuable for the intelligence gained than an assassination attempt.
The corporate media has been busy censoring the Kabul COS's name wherever they find a version of the original list on any site or in a comment thread. While this seems a waste of time since many people have copies of the original and there are other sources as well yet it shows symbolically at least that this type of information should not be revealed. Rall concludes that corporate media cannot be trusted to challenge the powers that be. Perhaps his next story will be on why millions of people are not shocked by this.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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