Hezbollah Names Alleged CIA Officers in Lebanon

By Matthew Cole, Rym Momtaz and Lee Ferran

Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based group considered by the U.S. government to be a terrorist organization, revealed what it said were the details of the CIA's extensive operations in Beirut, from high-value recruitment targets to clandestine meeting locations and even the identities of several CIA officers, in a video over the weekend.

At least two of the names belong to CIA officers who have served in Beirut, two former intelligence officials told ABC News. Neither is currently stationed in Lebanon.

Saturday's broadcast came after an admission by U.S. officials last month that a large CIA espionage network in Beirut had been "rolled up" by Hezbollah. According to current and former U.S. officials, two Hezbollah double agents managed to penetrate the network by pretending to go to work for the CIA.

Hezbollah then learned of the restaurant where multiple CIA officers were meeting with several agents, according to the four current and former officials briefed on the case. The CIA used the codeword "PIZZA" when discussing where to meet with the agents, according to U.S. officials. Two former officials describe the location as a Beirut Pizza Hut. A current US official denied that CIA officers met their agents at Pizza Hut.

From there, Hezbollah's internal security arm identified at least a dozen informants, and the identities of several CIA case officers.

In the video released by Al Manar, Hezbollah's media arm, the group used computer-generated models to show such meetings taking place in Pizza Hut and McDonald's. It also claimed to know who the CIA attempted to recruit -- from government employees to politicians and religious figures -- and how often the CIA officers had clandestine meetings with their agents. The video said the agency had constructed a large network of informants from across all segments of society.

A CIA spokesperson said Hezbollah's claims were suspect, but did not elaborate on which specific claims the agency doubted.

"The agency does not, as a rule, address spurious claims from terrorist groups," CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood told The Associated Press. "I think it's worth remembering that Hezbollah is a dangerous organization, with al-Manar as its propaganda arm. That fact alone should cast some doubt on the credibility of the group's claims."

But last month one U.S. official, speaking for the record but without attribution, gave grudging credit to the efforts of Iran and Hezbollah to detect and expose U.S. and Israeli espionage.

"Collecting sensitive information on adversaries who are aggressively trying to uncover spies in their midst will always be fraught with risk," the U.S. official briefed on the spy ring bust said then.

But others inside the American intelligence community say sloppy "tradecraft" -- the method of covert operations -- by the CIA is also to blame for the disruption of the vital spy networks.

One former senior intelligence official told ABC News that CIA officers ignored warnings that the operation could be compromised by using the same location for meetings with multiple assets.

"We were lazy and the CIA is now flying blind against Hezbollah," the former official said.

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/hezbollah-re...