Fox News Broadcasts Photo of Covert CIA Agent

Fox & Friends hopped into the wayback machine this morning to summon outrage about a post we published 23 days ago. They're angry—like a lot of people—that we pointed to a man in photos distributed by the White House and AP as the likely head of the operation to kill bin Laden. In expressing that anger, they published a photo of a covert CIA agent. Way to go, Doocy.

Nearly a month ago, we published a photo distributed by the White House showing Barack Obama in the Situation Room during the operation to kill bin Laden. We noted that, based on circumstantial clues in an AP story about "John," the anonymous CIA analyst who led the search for bin Laden, one of the men standing in the background was almost certainly "John." (John Young at Cryptome was the first to point this out.)

People were mad! There were angry blog posts! Then the New York Observer announced that it had divined "John's" identity and published more photos and potentially identifying details, but fell short of outing him. Then everyone continued going on about their lives.

Flash forward more than three weeks to this morning, when Fox News' Steve Doocy for some strange reason invited former CIA agent Michael Scheuer on for a four-minute segment excoriating Gawker—"this lousy web site"—for "outing" a CIA agent. That's not quite true, of course—we didn't know the agent's name and therefore didn't publish it, so it was a partial outing at best.

But Doocy, as Mediaite patsy Tommy Christopher noted in the course of lecturing us on journalistic propriety, decided to publish the very same White House photo that we did. Which is an odd decision, seeing as how it features a photo of the very man he was upbraiding us for "outing." ("We're not going to identify who he is in that picture," Doocy tells the audience, which certainly frustrated the efforts of any Islamist spook-hunters out there by keeping the list of potential suspects at an unmanageably high eight possible faces.)

Anyway, he's there in the photo at the top of this post, right above the chyron reading "Pic of Suspected CIA Staffer Posted on Gawker." He's the tall one in the back. What's worse, Doocy knowingly published an image of a covert agent. As the Observer story on "John" made clear, he was an overt, open, public CIA analyst at the time we published the White House photo featuring his face. His affiliation with the CIA was no secret. But after the Observer began making inquiries about his identity, the Agency suddenly moved him to covert status—apparently in an effort to intimidate the Observer and other news outlets pursuing his identity.

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a crime to engage in "a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents," Steve, so be careful. This is your first strike.

As for our response to Doocy and Christopher's charges, this disconcertingly fair story on the matter from FoxNews.com, which ran several weeks ago, sums up our arguments.