Mild-Mannered Reporters

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Though the idea has long been officially discouraged, some CIA agents stationed around the world might have been working undercover as journalists after all. Friday, John Deutch, the agency's director, acknowledged at a student forum in Washington that the CIA could dispatch agents to gather information as reporters, but only at his own discretion. That loophole exists in 19-year-old regulations that otherwise forbid the practice. Deutch, who was asked about a Washington Post report Friday that quoted an unidentified intelligence source saying the CIA occasionally has waived the rules, did not respond to the report directly. TIME National Security correspondent Douglas Waller says the issue has gained fresh force now that the private Council on Foreign Relations recommends rethinking the ban in a new report. But there's a reason for it in the first place: "We have enough journalists who get killed and kidnaped across the world without having to worry about being accused of being CIA officers," says Waller. "If you put a CIA agent under a journalist cover, what's he going to to find out that a CNN repter isn't?"