In his July 18 nationally syndicated column, U.S. News & World Report senior writer Michael Barone accused The New York Times of "outing" a CIA-operated airline in a May 31 article. This accusation is baseless, however, since the Times reportedly submitted the information in the article to the CIA prior to publication, and the CIA raised no objection to the story at the time or after its publication.
In his column, Barone addressed the alleged 2003 outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, comparing the Plame leak with a May 31 New York Times article detailing the operations of Aero Contractors Ltd., an airline operated by the CIA and used to transport terror suspects to foreign countries for interrogation (a practice known as "rendition"):
The Democrats who were so outraged by Plame's outing have not, to my knowledge, expressed outrage over The New York Times' May 31 story outing a CIA-run airline, a story that may have put agents in more danger than Plame faced as a result of hers.
The Times offers strong evidence, however, to rebut the charge that the article "outed" Aero Contractors Ltd. On June 19, Times public editor Byron Calame responded to reader mail accusing the Times of revealing sensitive information in its May 31 article. Calame noted that Times reporter Scott Shane "told the C.I.A. public affairs department in several conversations over the course of a month that The Times was pursuing the story."
Calame also quoted an e-mail Shane sent him, in which Shane claimed that five days prior to the article's publication, he emailed a summary to the CIA "that included virtually all the facts we were planning to print." Shane noted that he received a response the following day from the chief CIA spokeswoman, who "gave me a no comment, while assuring me that the information had been seen by all the relevant officials." Calame further noted that "the C.I.A. had ample opportunity to challenge the publication and didn't do so," and that the CIA has not lodged a complaint since the article's publication.