Since word of Osama Bin Laden‘s death hit headlines, public fascination has focused on those responsible for the mission’s success.
Though the identities remain kept under wraps by the U.S. government, a few reporters and the internet have uncovered the secret.
It all began with a June 5th Associated Press article that profiled the C.I.A. Counterterrorism centre analyst who they titled, “the man who hunted Osama Bin Laden.”
Though complying with the C.I.A.’s request to “withhold certain biographical details so that he would not become a target for retribution,” the article named the analyst by his middle name (“John”) and noted that he was standing just outside of the frame in the now iconic situation room photo.
The following day, Gawker editor John Cook published a posting about the analysts’ possible true identity after Cryptome’s John Young revealed that he may have uncovered a photo of the secret agent. The posting included marked photos of who was thought to be John.
FoxNews.com railed against Gawker and Cook on Tuesday, almost a week after the Gawker post was published, prompting this response from Cook:
“We came to the conclusion that it is highly unlikely that the White House would distribute for publication a photograph of a man whose life would be endangered if his photograph were ever published. Likewise, we decided that it is highly unlikely that such a man would publicly accompany the director of Central Intelligence, in the presence of AP photographers, to Capitol Hill to testify.”
In the meantime, randomly tipped off to the name of man in the photograph, The New York Observer stumbled upon John’s actual identity, as described it in an article published today.
Here’s what happened: After some thorough Googling, The Observer prepared to publish an online story that detailed the analyst’s identity.
“We dashed off a draft of a web story, complete with a sober-sounding rationale that read, in part, ‘Printing the name of even an overt C.I.A. employee who is, by all accounts, a national hero, is not something we do lightly. But after considerable debate, we concluded that the benefit of telling the story far outweighed the risks. The ease with which we turned up information the agency was supposedly determined to keep classified was in itself an important story … ‘”
However, after speaking with named sources from the AP profile, they agreed not to disclose John’s real name in exchange for more information:
“In the end, it was suggested that we might want to talk to some of John’s associates, off the record. That is, if we agreed not to print John’s name, even his first name.
We took the deal. The name was of no consequence to us. Moreover, the question seemed worth asking—and we were suddenly in a position to ask it: Who was this John?”
The answer? An “extraordinarily modest man” who probably just wishes that this whole story would go away. (Read the full Observer’ piece here).
Gawker is the high-brow gossip sheet covering media, entertainment, politics and technology.
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