An Outing In My Neck of the Woods

James Taranto points to an “outing” by the L.A. Times in my neck of the woods (North Carolina) and makes a comparison to the Plame case. I agree with Taranto, and with Clarice Feldman, who has been covering the trial of Scooter Libby (here and here), that this case in the L.A. Times about three pilots flying CIA rendition flights who have been indicted in a German court is a real outing. Their real names were not disclosed, but they might as well have been.

Flight records show that Aero Contractors, based in Smithfield, N.C., operated the plane that carried Masri from Macedonia to Afghanistan. The charter aircraft company has flown scores of sensitive missions for the CIA and has played a key support role in counter-terrorism operations since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to former agency officials.

The three pilots in the Masri rendition case live within a 30-minute drive of the guarded Aero hangar and offices at the rural Johnston County airport…

In real life, the chief pilot is 52, drives a Toyota Previa minivan and keeps a collection of model trains in a glass display case near a large bubbling aquarium in his living room. Federal aviation records show he is rated to fly seven kinds of aircraft as long as he wears his glasses.

His wife, reached by phone at her office, said her husband had done no wrong. “He’s just a pilot,” she said.

His copilot, who used the alias Fain, is a bearded man of 35 who lives with his father and two dogs in a separate subdivision. He called home during a subsequent mission from the Royal Plaza Hotel on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza, according to records collected by Spanish investigators from the Guardia Civil.

The third pilot, who used the alias Bird, is 46, drives a Ford Explorer and has a 17-foot aluminum fishing boat. Certified as a flight instructor, he keeps plastic models of his favorite planes mounted by the fireplace in his living room in a house that backs onto a private golf course here. His wife declined to comment.I am familiar enough with this part of North Carolina to know that it would not take a genius to locate these men (particularly the third pilot) and their families. These men were using aliases for a reason. The L.A. Times did not provide Google Maps to their homes, but they did give anyone who wanted to track these men down, a real jump on locating them.

Update: There is some interesting information posted at Pirate’s Cove regarding whether or not an individual needs to be a CIA employee, rather than a contractor, in order to be covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (section 606).

(4) The term “covert agent” means–

(A) a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency–

(i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and

(ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States; or

Update II: Patterico, who is always up to speed on the latest L.A. Times outrage, has more.

Owning up
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