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Aug 31 2011

CIA Censoring Soufan Book

If you don’t know who Ali Soufan is, you should. He is a former FBI interrogator who played a vital role in the war on terrorism before he became an even more vital opponent of the government’s torture regime. He’s trying to publish a book that reveals even more, but the CIA is preventing him from doing so — even with information that is already in the public domain. Glenn Greenwood has the details:

He has written a book exposing the abuses of the CIA’s interrogation program as well as pervasive ineptitude and corruption in the War on Terror.  He is, however, encountering a significant problem: the CIA is barring the publication of vast amounts of information in his book including, as Scott Shane details in The New York Times today, many facts that are not remotely secret and others that have been publicly available for years, including ones featured in the 9/11 Report and even in Soufan’s own public Congressional testimony.


He continues:

Shane notes that the government’s censorship effort “amounts to a fight over who gets to write the history of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath,” particularly given the imminent publication of a book by CIA agent Jose Rodriguez — who destroyed the videotapes of CIA interrogations in violation of multiple court orders and subpoenas only to be protected by the Obama DOJ — that touts the benefits of the CIA’s “tough” actions, propagandistically entitled: “Hard Measures: How Aggressive C.I.A. Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.”  Most striking about this event is the CIA’s defense of its censorship of information from Soufan’s book even though it has long been publicly reported and documented:

A spokeswoman for the C.I.A., Jennifer Youngblood, said . . . .”Just because something is in the public domain doesn’t mean it’s been officially released or declassified by the U.S. government.”

Just marvel at the Kafkaesque, authoritarian mentality that produces responses like that: someone can be censored, or even prosecuted and imprisoned, for discussing “classified” information that has long been documented in the public domain.  But as absurd as it is, this deceitful scheme — suppressing embarrassing information or evidence of illegality by claiming that even public information is “classified” — is standard government practice for punishing whistleblowers and other critics and shielding high-level lawbreakers.

The Obama DOJ has continuously claimed that victims of the U.S. rendition, torture and eavesdropping programs cannot have their claims litigated in court because what was done to them are “state secrets” — even when what was done to them has long been publicly known and even formally, publicly investigated and litigated in open court in other countries.

And Greenwald’s conclusion should be widely distributed:

Abusing government secrecy powers is a vastly more frequent and damaging illegal act than unauthorized leaks, yet the President obsesses on the latter while doing virtually nothing about the former other than continuing its worst manifestations.  As the Supreme Court explained, few things are more damaging to a democracy than allowing political leaders to abuse secrecy powers to cover-up wrongdoing and control the flow of information the public hears, i.e., to propagandize the citizenry.

But that’s exactly what Washington’s secrecy fixation is designed to achieve.  And while excessive secrecy has been a problem in the U.S. for decades, the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers makes it much more odious, since now it is about not only keeping vital information from the public and stifling public debate, but also threatening whistleblowers (and investigative reporters) with prolonged imprisonment.  That’s why they turn what candidate Obama called these “acts of courage and patriotism” (whistleblowing) into crimes, while the real criminals — political officials who abuse their secrecy powers for corrupted, self-interested ends — go unpunished.

This is a perfect symbol of the Obama administration: claims of secrecy are used to censor a vital critic of torture and other CIA abuses (Soufan) and to prosecute an NSA whistleblower who exposed substantial corruption and criminality (Drake), while protecting from all consequences the official who illegally destroyed video evidence of the CIA’s torture program (Rodriguez) and then help ensure that his torture-hailing propaganda book becomes the defining narrative of those events.  As usual, the real high-level criminals prosper while those who expose their criminality are the only ones punished.

Just another reason why Obama has been such a massive disappointment.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Chuck

    Glen Greenwood? Ed: proofread.

  2. 2
    Chiroptera

    Even if the facts were secrets that weren’t publicly known, I thought that government agencies don’t have the authority to censor them before publication, they only have the power to punish leakers after the fact — wasn’t that the essence of the Pentagon Papers case? Or am I mistaken?

  3. 3
    slc1

    Re Chiroptera @ 1:01

    As all employees and contract workers have to do, Mr. Soufan had to sign an agreement with the CIA which essentially says that the agency has the right to review and censor what they might choose to write about after they resign/retire. AFAIK, the courts have upheld these agreements.

  4. 4
    Bronze Dog

    Next on the news: Grass is [REDACTED]

  5. 5
    wscott

    ”Just because something is in the public domain doesn’t mean it’s been officially released or declassified by the U.S. government.”

    Actually, that’s not as crazy as it might sound on the face of it. It’s not hard to think of situations where something has been leaked, but the gov’t doesn’t want to confirm it’s accuracy. It’s the difference between “unnamed sources claim…” and “the government confirms…”
    I’m not defending its use in this case, which I find deplorable. But the concept itself is not completely absurd.

  6. 6
    LightningRose

    It would be a shame if this book were to somehow appear on Wikileaks. With a PayPal button to reimburse the author.

  7. 7
    D. C. Sessions

    Classified public domain knowledge? Sure, happens all the time.

    In examples that I encountered in my work: a European cryptographer publishes some of his work. That gets incorporated into American textbooks on number theory and cryptography. A student who learned the cryptography from that textbook works in industry on a project that requires a security clearance where he applies some of what he learned in that class from the textbook.

    Worker then decides to go back for more advanced studies which would be useful in his work, and is blocked because the homework for the class he wants to take is based on the contents of the textbook, which is classified information.

    <Headdesk>

  8. 8
    Chris from Europe

    @cainch
    Wald means forest or wood. Maybe it’s intentional.

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