Among the publications expected to get particular scrutiny is a memoir by the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who used his book, “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives,” to mount a vigorous defense of interrogation methods that were widely condemned but that he asserts provided critical intelligence about al-Qaeda.
The target of the probe is the agency’s Publications Review Board. The PRB evaluates hundreds of submissions each year and is supposed to focus exclusively on whether publication of material would threaten national security interests.
The CIA declined to comment on the internal investigation or to answer questions about the composition and practices of the PRB.
U.S. officials familiar with the inquiry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that it reflects growing concern in the intelligence community that the review process is biased toward agency loyalists, particularly those from the executive ranks.
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed such concerns in a recent letter to CIA Director David H. Petraeus, a document that has not been publicly released.
CIA critics said the disparities in the review process are particularly apparent in books that deal with controversial subjects, including the agency’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
A book released last year by former FBI agent Ali Soufan — who questioned al-Qaeda prisoners held by the CIA and has said he became dismayed by the agency’s tactics — was so heavily redacted that he published “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda” with black marks across many of its pages to show readers how much he was forced to withhold.
In an interview, Soufan said that his book had been cleared by the FBI, but that the CIA fought to impose changes that included the redaction of comments taken directly from transcripts of public hearings on Capitol Hill.
Soufan said he was surprised at how much Rodriguez was allowed to disclose.
“Absolutely there are things that he was able to talk about that were redacted from my book,” Soufan said. “I think it has more to do with trying to protect a narrative rather than protecting classified information.”
Rodriguez’s book includes detailed accounts of interrogations and other operations while taking veiled swipes at Soufan and others who question the use of harsh interrogation methods.
Bill Harlow, a former CIA public affairs official who co-authored the Rodriguez book, disputed the assertion that he and Rodriguez were given favorable treatment.