Page 2 of 2   <      

Suing Over the CIA's Red Pen

In papers filed in the court case, the CIA said Berntsen's unredacted draft "reveals intelligence sources, methods and activities, foreign government information, and information impacting U.S. foreign relations." The information "reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to national security" and none of the information in question "has been officially disclosed," which would give it a level of credibility beyond that written in nonfiction books by journalists.

The agency says the information is more detailed and covers a different period of time than information the agency released for Schroen's book.

Berntsen published his book, with the redactions, in late December 2005. The paperback editions are due out soon. If he wins back some of the redacted material, he plans to publish an updated edition. "I'm not walking away," he said. "You can't have your First Amendment rights stamped on."

Berntsen's complaints about the agency's publication review decisions are shared by a half-dozen former CIA employees who, in the past two years, have sued or publicly criticized the agency for withholding information they believed would not damage national security but would, perhaps, embarrass the CIA or the White House.

Some administration officials and others in the national security world think Tenet allowed former employees to publish deeply critical books -- such as Michael Scheuer's "Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror" -- in retaliation for the White House allowing the agency to take so much heat for the failed prewar judgments on Iraq and other missteps.

Asked for new CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden's policy on book publishing, Mansfield wrote: "Director Hayden has emphasized the importance of responding in a timely way to employees who write books. And while he is committed to protecting intelligence sources, methods, and other classified information, the director also believes in a reasonable, common-sense approach to pre-publication review."

Berntsen said his legal appeal is being hampered because the CIA, with the court's approval, has refused to allow his lawyer, Mark Zaid, who is cleared to read some classified information, to see the unredacted text to prepare his case. Instead, Berntsen has had to prepare his own appeal, a 70-page rebuttal that documents, line by line, the previous publication of the information the CIA wants to deny him.

While he waits for his case to be adjudicated, Berntsen has written a second book, this one a policy book on "counterterrorism and human intelligence operations." The PRB redacted "only 1 to 2 percent" of the text, he said.

The tables will soon turn on Tenet, who is writing his own book. He has asked for and received access to agency records, including classified documents, "to refresh his memory about events that occurred during his tenure," Mansfield said. He said Tenet's book will be subject to CIA review and that appropriate sections will also be given to the offices where the information originated.


<       2

© 2006 The Washington Post Company