The Central Intelligence Agency is demanding extensive cuts from the memoir of a former FBI agent who spent several years at the heart of the agency’s investigations against al-Qaida, reports The New York Times.
Ali H. Soufan, a former counterterrorism agent, argues in his memoir that the CIA flubbed a chance to derail the 9/11 plot by withholding crucial information from the FBI regarding al-Qaida operatives living in California. Soufan also criticizes the CIA’s use of brutal interrogations for Abu Zubaydah, the agency’s first major captive.
The CIA claims some of the information in Soufan’s memoir is classified, and thus, requires removal. But, some of that same information already has been disclosed in open congressional hearings and the 9/11 commission report, according to the Post.
Soufan says he believes the cuts to his book, “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda,” are not intended to protect national security. Instead, he believes the CIA is acting to prevent him from recalling episodes that could reflect poorly on the agency and its operations.
The cuts include the removal of the pronouns “I” and “me” from a chapter in which Soufan details his role in the interrogation of Zubaydah, a chief terrorist training camp boss. The CIA also removed an excerpt that mentioned the fact that a passport photo of one of the 9/11 hijackers was sent to their headquarters in 2000.
David N. Kelley, a lawyer for Soufan, wrote in a letter to the FBI’s general counsel that “credible sources have told Mr. Soufan that the agency has made a decision that his book should not be published because it will prove embarrassing to the agency.”
Soufan called the CIA’s demands “ridiculous” in a recent statement. “It saddens me that some are refusing to address past mistakes.”
A spokeswoman for the CIA, Jennifer Youngblood, fired back saying, “The suggestions that the Central Intelligence Agency has request redactions on this publication because it doesn’t like the content is ridiculous. The CIA’s pre-publication review process looks solely at the issue of whether information is classified.”
“Just because something is in the public domain doesn't mean it’s been officially released or declassified by the U.S. government,” she insisted.
Facing a deadline this week, “The Black Banners” publishing company decided to proceed with a first printing incorporating all of the demanded CIA cuts.
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