Books written by former CIA agents have always needed to pass a CIA review before publication, but judging by the recent experiences of some publishers, the agency is interfering more now than ever. Two fall books written by CIA insiders have run into problems and, according to a prominent attorney in the field, one of them may face a lawsuit from the agency.
The CIA's Publication Review Board (PRB) says it is seeing more books as a percentage of what it reviews (more than 18,000 manuscript pages annually for the second consecutive year) and more books by former operations officers about operational activity. But according to Mark Zaid, an attorney who represents several former CIA officers, attitudes changed at the agency when Porter Goss took over (in late 2004), and the new stance was: "no books." The attitude apparently continues today, even with Michael Hayden now in charge. The CIA did not return calls for comment.
According to Dutton, its book Class 11: Inside the CIA's First Post-9/11 Spy Class by T.J. Waters, originally set for spring 2006, was halted at the last minute by the PRB. Waters brought a federal lawsuit against the CIA, alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights after the CIA insisted that material that had previously been approved be removed from his book. After months in federal court without a definitive ruling and the CIA now under new administration, Waters believes he has fulfilled all of the PRB's requirements, and Dutton is going forward with an October 19 publication. Still, Zaid said, Dutton "may be facing a lawsuit from the CIA very soon."
Carroll & Graf's On the Brink: How the White House Has Compromised American Intelligence by Tyler Drumheller and Elaine Monaghan has had its share of problems, too; HarperCollins bought the book last year, but canceled it after it announced it would publish George Tenet's At the Center of the Storm. HC declined to say why it dropped the title; it will publish Tenet's book February 6 and, according to executive editor David Hirshey, the CIA has not yet seen the book. Carroll & Graf editor-in-chief Philip Turner then acquired Drumheller's book and plans to publish it this fall as the first book under his eponymous imprint. The publisher and the PRB have gone back and forth on the book's content and, according to Drumheller's agent, Carmen LaVia of the Oscard Agency, "We're still waiting for final approval [from the CIA]." The pub date is undetermined, having less to do with the CIA's vetting than a pending TV news segment that C&G hopes to tie in to the book. Turner said On the Brink was able to circumvent some of the CIA's restrictions by including an afterword by Drumheller's coauthor, who is a reporter.
Zaid said the CIA has historically sought to stifle criticism from former agency employees, whether the information was classified or not. But it seems the CIA is also committed to vetting books that support the agency. Dutton president and publisher Brian Tart said Waters's book is patriotic and "doesn't tell any secrets," yet the CIA "never really made any kind of attempt to tell [Waters] what needed to be changed." Zaid doesn't think Waters's book contains classified info, but the CIA believes it does and, as the attorney said, "Classified information is like beauty; it's very subjective."