At a confirmation hearing last week, Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas and a member of the Intelligence Committee, repeatedly questioned Avril D. Haines, a former C.I.A. deputy director who is now the director of national intelligence, about her work for WestExec Advisors, a consultancy co-founded by Antony J. Blinken, the new secretary of state.
Ms. Haines said she did no work at the consultancy for foreign governments.
In her letter admonishing former officers to think about their public comments, Ms. Patel did not cite any specifics that put classified material in jeopardy. But the agency is worried that a variety of public comments by former officials could be stitched together to reveal classified information.
“The risk of unintended disclosure of classified information, or confirmation of classified information by our adversaries, increases with each exposure outside of established U.S. government channels,” Ms. Patel wrote.
Periodically in C.I.A. history, the agency has been frustrated with former officers talking with the press or writing books. The first such wave of frustration came after reporters published articles critical of the agency after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. The next wave came in the 1970s, when a number of agency memoirs were published, some without undergoing a review before publication, which the C.I.A. demands.
“What’s changed now is not the phenomenon of formers talking,” said Nicholas Dujmovic, a former C.I.A. historian who is now a professor at the Catholic University of America. “What’s changed is with the digital revolution, the internet and social media, everybody’s got a platform. It is impossible for the agency to even be aware of, much less actively monitor, every time a former says something.”
The C.I.A. requires op-ed essays and other writing that is related to intelligence issues to be submitted to a review office for approval before publication. But the agency cannot review social media posts, television appearances, panel discussions or podcasts.
While any such program about the intelligence agencies has a risk of discussing classified events, Dr. Dujmovic said some were precisely the kinds of outlets the agency should be encouraging, not discouraging.