CIA Director John Deutch told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in late February that CIA operatives are allowed to use journalists in clandestine operations and to pose as journalists under special circumstances. He revealed that the CIA retains the option to waive the 1976 regulation barring these operations.
Under questioning by committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter, Deutch wouldn’t say when exceptions would be granted. However, he said situations justifying such use would include those where American lives were at stake or if there were an imminent danger that weapons of mass destruction would be used.
The questioning came in response to advice given by a “blue ribbon” task force sponsored by the non-governmental Council on Foreign Relations, which suggested overturning the executive order against using “non-official cover.”
Deutch revealed that since the 1976 blanket prohibition was put in place by CIA director George Bush, waivers to this policy could — and have — been made. However, he would not disclose any specific instances.
The CIA’s position contradicts what many thought was an outright ban on CIA use of journalists or journalistic cover. Many media organizations have protested the advice and insisted on a restoration of the 1976 blanket prohibition. Media organizations have said that such actions undermine the integrity of the press and jeopardize the safety of reporters working overseas.