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CIA Letter to New York Times (May 29, 2008)

July 6, 2008

A column in the July 6, 2008 edition of The New York Times by Clark Hoyt, the newspaper’s public editor, makes reference to a May 29, 2008 letter sent by the CIA to The Times, asking that the newspaper not put at risk a former CIA officer involved in the Agency’s detention and interrogation program by publishing his name. Here is the text of the letter.


29 May 2008

Mr. Dean Baquet
Bureau Chief and Assistant Managing Editor
The New York Times
[Address Omitted]

Dear Mr. Baquet:

As you know, Scott Shane has advised us that he is working on an in-depth look at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, before and after capture.  Mr. Shane asked the CIA to cooperate on the project, describing his goal as a more nuanced picture of both Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and our terrorist detention and interrogation program. We respectfully declined, noting that such cooperation would be inappropriate given the ongoing legal proceedings against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at the Guantanamo Naval Base. In addition, while the outlines of CIA’s interrogation initiative have been made public, many of the details of this valuable effort remain classified, another obvious bar to collaboration with your newspaper.

We had every expectation that Mr. Shane and The Times would continue to pursue this story. That is certainly your prerogative. What concerns us, though, are the attempts Mr. Shane is making—presumably as part of this project—to profile a former CIA officer who was involved in the Agency’s interrogation program. Mr. Shane has tried, in some cases repeatedly, to contact members of this individual’s family, high school classmates, and others, seeking personal information about him. This former officer has grave concerns about being identified publicly, and the CIA shares his concerns.

I called Mr. Shane on Thursday morning, 22 May 2008, and expressed the Agency’s strong opposition to publishing the name of this individual. We are convinced that it would be reckless and irresponsible to do so, as it could endanger the lives of this American and his family. At a minimum, Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers would consider them targets. The terrorists recognize that the interrogation program has been an effective tool in the global campaign against them. And they do not, to our knowledge, have the names of the officers responsible for that success. It is not clear to us why your newspaper would give them that information.

But there is another risk to consider. The CIA’s interrogation program has been conducted in accord with US law, employing only methods specifically approved by the Department of Justice. Despite that, some elements of the media and of our society loudly, routinely, and wrongly decry it as “torture.” In that poisoned atmosphere, identifying someone as a CIA interrogator makes him vulnerable to any misguided person who believes they need to confront “torture” directly.

The consequences that could flow from publication of this individual’s name are clear. I ask again that The Times not place at risk an innocent American patriot and his family. Mr. Shane said it was important for me to make my views known to you. I can assure you that the CIA does not make such appeals lightly.


Mark Mansfield
Director of Public Affairs


CC:  Scott Shane


Historical Document
Posted: Jul 05, 2008 11:18 PM
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2009 11:14 AM