The Feb. 1 news article “Bolton faces potential legal battles in standoff with White House over book” provided much-needed discussion of the arbitrary and capricious nature of the government’s pre-publication review process. Having submitted many book-length manuscripts to the Central Intelligence Agency, I have learned that books from senior officials that praise the CIA get very quick review and approval. Former CIA directors such as Robert Gates and Leon Panetta are never challenged. If you are an agency critic, however, you can wait as long as one year to get approval. Government censors rarely provide an explanation for their redactions, and authors have no system for challenging these decisions. Moreover, the censors are far more concerned with information they find embarrassing to a particular agency rather than concerning themselves with genuine national security secrets. As a result, the public is deprived of relevant information on many national security issues that require discussion and debate. Congressional committees and media outlets are similarly deprived.

The sensitivity of former national security adviser John Bolton’s manuscript should lead to reform of a system that violates the First Amendment rights of government officials.

Melvin A. Goodman, Bethesda

The writer, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, was a CIA intelligence analyst from 1966 to 1990.