Googling for Covert CIA Agents
It’s easy to blow the cover of CIA agents using the Internet:
The CIA asked the Tribune not to publish her name because she is a covert operative, and the newspaper agreed. But unbeknown to the CIA, her affiliation and those of hundreds of men and women like her have somehow become a matter of public record, thanks to the Internet.
When the Tribune searched a commercial online data service, the result was a virtual directory of more than 2,600 CIA employees, 50 internal agency telephone numbers and the locations of some two dozen secret CIA facilities around the United States.
Only recently has the CIA recognized that in the Internet age its traditional system of providing cover for clandestine employees working overseas is fraught with holes, a discovery that is said to have “horrified” CIA Director Porter Goss.
Seems to be serious:
Not all of the 2,653 employees whose names were produced by the Tribune search are supposed to be working under cover. More than 160 are intelligence analysts, an occupation that is not considered a covert position, and senior CIA executives such as Tenet are included on the list.
Covert employees discovered
But an undisclosed number of those on the list–the CIA would not say how many–are covert employees, and some are known to hold jobs that could make them terrorist targets.
Other potential targets include at least some of the two dozen CIA facilities uncovered by the Tribune search. Most are in northern Virginia, within a few miles of the agency’s headquarters. Several are in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington state. There is one in Chicago.
Some are heavily guarded. Others appear to be unguarded private residences that bear no outward indication of any affiliation with the CIA.
A senior U.S. official, reacting to the computer searches that produced the names and addresses, said, “I don’t know whether Al Qaeda could do this, but the Chinese could.”