A former FBI agent is finding out firsthand that freedom of speech is something every American has to fight for if there is a book involved.
The Central Intelligence Agency is being accused of censoring a book on the fight against terrorism written by an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The intelligence agency is reportedly concerned that the book makes it look bad.
The C.I.A. is demanding extensive cuts from the memoir of Ali Soufan, an agent who spent years near the center of the battle against Al Qaida.
Some of the cuts demanded by the C.I.A. from Soufan’s book, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda, seem hard for Soufan to understand.
Soufan argues that the parts of his book that the C.I.A. wants removed will not protect national security, but merely shield the reputation of the spy agency.
The agent wrote the memoir about his days as a counterterrorism expert from 1997 to 2005, during which he was heavily involved in the struggle against Al Qaida and Middle East operations.
In his book, Soufan claims the C.I.A. withheld information from the F.B.I. about two of the 9/11 hijackers, which could have helped avoid the tragic attacks.
He also says the C.I.A.’s use of torture on detainees was unnecessary and counterproductive.
Soufan’s stories might never make it to print if the C.I.A. gets its way.
The former agent says that he is being told to take out key parts from his tales, and he believes it isn’t because of a national security scare, but because the C.I.A.doesn’t want to be reflected poorly to the public.
Other critics say the numerous publications coming out just before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks are striking too close a nerve for the government.
“Neither critique of the C.I.A. is new,” writes Scott Shane in The New York Times. “In fact, some of the information that the agency argues is classified, according to two people who have seen the correspondence between the FBI and CIA, has previously been disclosed in open Congressional hearings, the report of the national commission on 9/11 and even the 2007 memoir of George J. Tenet, the former CIA director.”
In a letter sent Aug. 19 to the F.B.I.’s general counsel, Valerie E. Caproni, a lawyer for Soufan, David N. Kelley, wrote “credible sources have told Mr. Soufan that the agency has made a decision that this book should not be published because it will prove embarrassing to the agency,” The New York Times reports today.
In a statement, Soufan called the C.I.A’s reactions and cuts to his book “ridiculous” but said he thought he would prevail in getting them restored for a later edition.
He said he believed that counterterrorism officers have an obligation to face squarely “where we made mistakes and let the American people down,” he told The New York Times. "It saddens me that some are refusing to address past mistakes.”
A spokesman for the F.B.I., Michael P. Kortan, declined to comment to the media today.
Jennifer Youngblood, speaking officially on behalf of the C.I.A., gave various explanations about the book’s censorship in a statement saying, “Just because something is in the public domain doesn’t mean it’s been officially released or declassified by the U.S. government.”
Some critics are saying Youngblood’s statements are proof of the illogical thinking by the U.S. government.
The frequent publications and memoirs by Bush administration officials have continued a firestorm of debate over the facts surrounding the failure to prevent 9/11 and the tactics against terrorism that followed.
In former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir, set for publication next week, he writes of the harsh interrogations that “the techniques worked.”
Even, Cheney’s recent book has questions about Bush's decisions on the 9/11 attacks and his role in the decision to go to war. There are also questions about the validity of his claims concerning how the 9/11 attacks happened.
In the meantime, the bureau has given the book to the C.I.A.
The agency's reviewers responded this month with 78-page and 103-page faxes listing their cuts.
The Black Banners traces the origins and growth of Al Qaida and describes the role of Soufan, 40, a Lebanese-American, in the investigations of the East African embassy bombings of 1998, the attack on the American destroyer Cole in 2000, 9/11 and the continuing campaign against terrorism.