By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd
The militant group Hezbollah claims it has blown the cover of 10 alleged CIA officers working in Lebanon.
In the latest round of an escalating spy war, Hezbollah's media arm, al Manar, posted a video Friday accusing the CIA of running espionage operations from the diplomatic cover of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. It discloses the alleged names of the current CIA station chief (including his birthdate), the former station chief, and three other officers, as well as code names for five others.
If those are indeed the names of CIA officers, their covert abilities have been compromised, and they will likely leave the country, according to two former CIA agents.
"The truth is, almost everybody probably knows who the station chief in Beirut is - at least if you're the bad guy," said former CIA officer Reuel Marc Gerecht. But if the identities of officers have been publicly revealed, he said, "they (agency officials) most definitely yank you."
Former CIA officer Robert Baer, who once served in the agency's Beirut station, said, "If I were there, I'd close the place down. You just have to assume that all your sources are compromised. Your tradecraft is compromised. It could be a year, doing a damage assessment, then you have to send in new people - who haven't been exposed, and operate in a completely different way."
The Hezbollah video says the CIA tries to recruit Lebanese officials, politicians, religious and social leaders, and opponents of Israel. When an informant is recruited, "a detailed personal file is prepared, about him" and the "network of persons acquainted with him," the report alleges. The CIA meets with its assets in restaurants like McDonalds and Pizza Hut and Starbucks, or in a car being driven around the city, and "every bit of information is extracted from him," the Hezbollah video claims. The video is illustrated with animated re-enactments of such meetings.
A CIA spokeswoman did not confirm or deny the accuracy of Hezbollah's report.
"The agency does not, as a rule, address spurious claims from terrorist groups," said CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood. 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."
Baer said the loss of human intelligence assets, if true, could cost the U.S. valuable intelligence.
"Any time we ever had any breakthroughs - whether it's getting (Osama) bin Laden, or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - it's always been thanks to human intelligence," he said. "And now we've lost that in Lebanon, for quite a while."
But one U.S. official, who would not confirm or deny the report, said, "No one is giving up against Hezbollah, the group that has killed more Americans than any other terrorist group except al Qaeda."
The official added that "repeating Hezbollah's claims does nothing but serve that group's interests, making things harder for Americans in Beirut."
The alleged names are not being disclosed by CNN.
In 1984, the CIA station chief in Beirut was kidnapped by Hezbollah and killed. Baer described the group as a formidable counterintelligence adversary.
"Every single (computer) hard drive in Lebanon, they're into it," he said. "They're into police files, they're into military intelligence files, they can get on any Skype message, they can tap telephones, get into phone databases - you name it, they can do it. And they're very good at it."
The dissemination of those identities, if genuine, comes on the heels of another recent setback for the U.S. intelligence program in Lebanon. In June, Hezbollah claimed that it had arrested two or more CIA informants in the country.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former FBI agent, was asked by CNN whether he was concerned that the CIA has suffered a setback in Lebanon intelligence gathering.
"I'm confident the agency is making adjustments where necessary," he said. But he also said that multiple reviews of the CIA's spying tradecraft were under way.
"We're having separate reviews of tradecraft as it applied - and I'm not speaking specifically to your question, but I'm talking about around the globe."
Hezbollah is the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite group regarded as a terrorist organization by the United States.
CNN's Pam Benson contributed to this story