A Harvard professor who wrote a recent book on Saudi Arabia with the aid of a $107,430 research grant from the Central Intelligence Agency said yesterday that he allowed the agency to review the manuscript before publication, but did not feel that the review harmed the credibility of his work.
Nadav Safran, director of Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, said that CIA officials didn't make any changes in the book, "not a comma."
"I defy anybody to show there is anything in the book that suggests a slant that is related by any stretch of the imagination to the CIA contract," he said in a telephone interview.
The CIA's relationships with professors and book publishers has been a sensitive issue since the disclosure in the mid-1970s that the intelligence agency had secretly published hundreds of books as part of a worldwide propaganda effort.
The book, "Saudi Arabia, the Ceaseless Quest for Security," was published last month by Harvard University Press without any mention of the intelligence agency sponsorship. Safran said the CIA didn't want its role in the book project acknowledged publicly and "that was fine by me."
When Safran first discussed the agency's funding support, he said he told the CIA that he did not like the clause in the standard CIA research contract that called for prepublication review. He said he had it amended to make clear that his work didn't involve the use of classified material, was historical in nature, and that no difficulty in the review was expected. He said he accepted no research assistance from the CIA, other than the grant.
Harvard has strict rules governing its faculty's use of outside funding, including provisions that prohibit required prepublication reviews and funding that can't be disclosed publicly.
Safran said he didn't expect any problem with the college because he submitted the CIA contract to university authorities when he signed it in 1982 and no one raised any questions then. He would not identify which university officials reviewed the contract.
John Shattuck, the university's vice president for public affairs, said yesterday that Harvard officials still are studying Safran's book contract. "There are a number of questions. We don't know all the answers yet," he said.
Safran also accepted a $47,500 grant from the CIA to help put on a conference on Islamic fundamentalism scheduled for the Harvard campus today and Wednesday. In a statement last week, a Harvard dean said Safran "erred" in not telling participants of the CIA sponsorship, but he has allowed the meeting to proceed. Since then several participants have backed out, complaining that they weren't informed about the CIA's role.
Safran said he had been working on the book for some time when an official he knew in the CIA's analytical branch expressed interest in it and offered agency funding to help him finish it faster. "They were extremely keen to see that kind of study done," Safran said.
He said he told CIA officials there might be questions about the contract, but he told them he didn't think the university rules required "that I go ring a bell and announce" the CIA funding. "While I did not proclaim it, neither did I keep it secret if asked," he said.
CIA officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.