Washington Post | October 19, 2010
"I'm ready to take whatever they have to do," the former CIA officer who calls himself Ishmael Jones told SpyTalk over two years ago, upon the publication of his unauthorized memoir, "The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture."
Today the former deep-cover agent’s expectations came true, as the spy agency announced that a long-rumored suit had been filed against him in July for breaking his secrecy oath by publishing his book without its approval.
“Although ‘Jones’ submitted his manuscript to the Agency’s Publications Review Board as his secrecy agreement requires,” the CIA said in its Tuesday announcement, “he did not let that review process run its course and instead published in defiance of the Board's initial disapproval. He chose to violate a contract that he, and every other Agency employee, signs voluntarily as a condition of service with the CIA.”
“CIA officers are duty-bound to observe the terms of their secrecy agreement with the Agency,” Director Leon E. Panetta said. “This lawsuit clearly reinforces that message.”
The Justice Department suit, on behalf of the spy agency, seeks “an injunction against any further violations of ‘Jones’ secrecy obligations and recovery of the proceeds from the unauthorized publication.”
It cited as precedent Snepp vs. United States, the 1980 Supreme Court decision against former CIA officer Frank Snepp that validated the agency requirement that employees submit their writings for approval as a fiduciary obligation.
As a result of the decision, the government was able to seize Snepp’s profits from the book. Snepp subsequently wrote a second book, "Irreparable Harm: A Firsthand Account of How One Agent Took on the CIA in an Epic Battle Over Free Speech," which was cleared by the agency.
Like Snepp, whose memoir “Decent Interval” harshly criticized CIA activities at the end of the Vietnam War, Jones maintains that his book contained "no classified information."
He said he used a pseudonym because "I was under deep cover for most of my career, so to use my real name might expose people I've met."
Publishing the book without approval was necessitated because “there are no viable whistleblower mechanisms within the CIA,” he said.
The CIA at first offered no explanation for why the suit, which was filed in July, was just announced on Tuesday. It referred callers to the Justice Department.
But CIA spokeswoman Paula Weiss later said, “Certain steps need to be taken before publicly discussing these kinds of legal actions.”
Last spring, Jones said by e-mail today, "I'd ... heard from two separate colleagues ... that Panetta was demanding I be sued, and I'd seen some additional strange goings-on. But then nothing happened until I was served papers recently."
Jones added, "As an American, it's my duty to defy censors."