The New York Times came under fire on social media over the weekend after it explained why it recently published a news story revealing the identity of a CIA officer embedded in the Middle East.
CIA director Mike Pompeo last week criticized the Times after it published the name of a CIA officer who was tapped to run the agency’s Iran operations. According to the CIA, the officer was working undercover, which made the name publication an “unconscionable” decision, Pompeo said.
When the Times initially reached out to the intelligence agency for comment, the CIA even advised the Times not to publish the agent’s name, citing the fact that he was working in a covert fashion. According to the Times, they “take care not to put national security or lives in danger, and we take that concern very seriously.”
However, the paper chose to publish the name anyway in a June 2 news story.
The newspaper explained:
In this case, editors decided to publish the name because [the agent] is a senior official who runs operations from the agency’s headquarters outside Washington, not in the field. He is also the architect of the C.I.A.’s program to use drones to kill high-ranking militants, one of the government’s most significant paramilitary programs. We believe that the American public has a right to know who is making life-or-death decisions in its name.
It was also not the first time that [the agent’s] name has been mentioned in our newspaper. After his identity was disclosed in a 2015 article, The Times’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, discussed the rationale in an interview with Lawfare, a website that covers national security law, and gave more insight into editors’ decision-making.
The explanation was published in the paper’s “Resource Center,” which the paper dubs “a newsroom initiative that is helping The Times build deeper ties with our audience.”
While the explanation was an exercise in transparency, people were not satisfied with their reasoning. Needless to say, it did not go over well:
Terrible decision and not required at all to get the story across.
— sublocale (@sublocale) July 22, 2017
There’s no reason!
— irishgirl (@irishgirl_6) July 22, 2017
They asked you not to publish. You did anyway. Zero respect for you NYT
— Joie (@JoieQ101) July 22, 2017
Beyond shameful. It’s inexcusable.
— Nathaniel (@runjinrun) July 22, 2017
— 💁🏼🌻🌷 (@sophiatrump) July 22, 2017
leaked intelligence foiling plot to kill ISIS leader. NYT is a threat 2 R nat. security. It is time Americans dismantle the NYT !
— Tim Delarm (@TimDelarm) July 22, 2017
CIA officials are not ELECTED officals – deserve anonymity –
— Joseph J Flynn (@JosephJFlynn) July 22, 2017
That’s a horrible reason. The media continues to put our country in danger. Wish they could be legally held accountable.
— Patricia (@PFinflo) July 22, 2017
So they asked you not to release his name for security reasons and you disregarded their request and did it anyway. Fabulous explanation 🖒
— Jen DinNJ (@JenDinnj) July 23, 2017