CIA agents find themselves Googled
The Chicago Tribune [reg required] says that Internet searches have revealed private and personal details of thousands of CIA operatives.
The paper conceded to the CIA’s request not to publish either its findings or the methods it used. But it says the searches it conducted through free and paid-for online databases turned up a ‘virtual directory’ of 2,653 CIA staff, 50 internal agency phone numbers and the sites of two dozen secret facilities across the US.
Some of those uncovered were intelligence analysts. Others were senior officials such as ex CIA Director George Tenet. The list also included undercover agents who are potential terrorist targets and others located in American embassies in Europe.
Online searches for the CIA’s secretive training camp, Camp Peary, of which the agency has never publicly admitted its existence, unearthed 26 individuals employed there. A further search of aviation databases for planes using the camp’s airstrip identified 17 aircraft whose ownership and flight history was also available.
The CIA told the Tribune it was previously unaware of the extent to which this information was so readily available. A senior official told the paper it didn’t have ‘a great explanation, quite frankly’.
Another highlighted the ramifications for US security. ‘I don’t know whether Al-Qaeda could do this, but the Chinese could,’ the Tribune was told.
It seems that the CIA have acted on the Tribune’s investigation. Having exposed the fact that CIA planes were being used to transport terrorists to countries where they claimed to have been tortured, the Tribune says that the companies formed to front these operations have disappeared from the Internet.
The CIA itself says it is making other changes to protect the identities of its operatives, although declined to detail what actions it was taking, ‘since we don’t want the bad guys to know what we’re fixing’.