CIA demands cuts to critical 9/11 memoir
2011-08-31 0:00

By Dan De Luce | / AFP

The Central Intelligence Agency has demanded a publisher make extensive cuts to a book critical of its performance before and after the September 11 attacks, officials said Friday.

"The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al-Qaeda," a memoir by former FBI agent Ali Soufan due out next month, recounts his experiences at the heart of high-profile terror investigations.

Soufan has accused the CIA of insisting on scores of redactions he says are not justified on security grounds but are aimed at undermining an account that reflects badly on the agency, the New York Times reported.

A spokesman for the CIA rejected the accusation and said the changes were meant to safeguard national security.

"The suggestion that the Central Intelligence Agency has requested redactions on this publication because it doesn’t like the content is ridiculous," CIA spokesman Preston Golson said in an email.

"The CIA’s pre-publication review process looks solely at the issue of whether information is classified," he said.

In his book, Soufan reportedly argues that the CIA botched an opportunity to prevent the 2001 terror plot by failing to divulge information to the FBI about two future 9/11 hijackers based in San Diego.

He is also critical of the harsh interrogation techniques used on terror suspects -- including Abu Zubaydah, the first important captive taken after the 9/11 attacks -- saying such methods are counterproductive.

The dispute over the book comes as the country prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington and amid a continuing debate about the treatment of terror suspects.

In a 78-page letter, the CIA requested a range of cuts to the manuscript, including of information already made public or discussed at congressional hearings, according to WW Norton and Company, the book’s publisher.

With the memoir due to go on sale in less than a month, the company said it plans to publish the book with the edits demanded by the CIA.

"Norton will publish the book with redactions," Louise Brockett, a Norton spokeswoman, told AFP.

The author, quoted in the New York Times, criticized the CIA for its approach and said the government needed to face honestly "where we made mistakes and let the American people down."

"It saddens me that some are refusing to address past mistakes."

Golson countered that "just because something is in the public domain doesn’t mean it’s been officially released or declassified by the US government."

A US official argued that Soufan was not being silenced in any way and has often spoken out publicly.

"No one’s stopped Ali Soufan from expressing his opinions about the interrogation of terrorists. He’s done it repeatedly, in several media outlets," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The changes demanded by the CIA include wording used by Soufan in 2009 testimony at a Senate hearing and references to the agency’s "stations," the widely used, traditional word for CIA offices abroad.
Soufan is not the first author to face tough restrictions by the CIA, according to Steven Aftergood, who leads the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists.

The "CIA has often been very heavy-handed in its pre-publication review process, sometimes including restrictions on information that is already in the public domain," he said.

"The CIA thinks the national security of the United States is so fragile that it can be damaged by repeating the wrong words. But others believe that free expression and robust debate are exactly what make the nation strong."

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Ed Note: While publication bans and redaction are business as usual for the CIA, this feels like a distraction.
The question is not ’was there an intelligence failure’ - the question is ’how big was it, who was involved, and why was it allowed to happen’?
Calling the intelligence and communication botches "mistakes" gives the CIA a pass. These "mistakes" very well could have been purposeful misdirections, assists, and cover-ups within the agency so as to accomplish the events of 9/11.


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