In a piece today, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reports on a CIA base that will be used to conduct drone strikes in Yemen:
The agency is building a desert airstrip so that it can begin flying armed drones over Yemen. The facility, which is scheduled to be completed in September, is designed to shield the CIA’s aircraft, and their sophisticated surveillance equipment, from observers at busier regional military hubs such as Djibouti, where the JSOC drones are based.
The Washington Post is withholding the specific location of the CIA facility at the administration’s request.
The existence of the base has been reported elsewhere–the New York Times noted on June 15 that an “American official would not disclose the country where the CIA base was being built.” The Times pointed out that the shift to CIA control was important, since with “the operations under CIA control, they could be carried out as a ‘covert action,’ which can be undertaken without the support of the host government.” Meaning the U.S. could bomb Yemen without the approval of Yemen’s government, in the event that the current government were to fall.
The story seemed to have been broken by the Associated Press (6/14/11), which, like the Post, is not telling readers what it knows about the base: “The Associated Press has withheld the exact location at the request of U.S. officials.”
This is reminiscent of the Post‘s decision in 2005 to report on CIA secret prisons (“black sites”) in Eastern Europe–without disclosing the location of those sites, where terrorism suspects were taken to be interrogated (Extra! Update, 12/05).
It obviously makes senses for any White House to want to keep its secret programs under wraps–particularly when there’s a chance that laws are being broken, or civilians are being killed. (Recall that the U.S. Navy launched a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs into Yemen in 2009, reportedly killing 41 civilians.)
It does not make sense, however, for news outlets to assist them in these efforts.