Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 11:26 AM ET, 10/19/2010

CIA files suit against former spy Ishmael Jones

By Jeff Stein

"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."

By Jeff Stein  | October 19, 2010; 11:26 AM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Lawandcourts, Media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: CIA only an 'ok' place to work, jobs Web site says
Next: FBI’s computer woes continue, auditors say


no as a national security agent you agreed before you were ever hired to the rules for publishing any stories related to your job at the agency this is not a 1st amendment issue this is a breach of contract issue.

As a veteran used in the MKULTRA experiments and covered up by Dr Sidney Gottlibe I have little use for the CIA but the majority of the people who work there play by the "rules" and the constitution and the laws the rest of us live by some people have twisted our laws like the enhanced interrogations under Bush/Cheney human experiments from 1955 thru 1975 but your book doesn't expose crimes by the govt and it is not a whistle blower book it is a profit driven book nothing more and nothing less you should be ashamed and you deserve to be sued.

Posted by: mikey30919 | October 19, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

There's alot of missing pieces to this story that I hope get filled in as the lawsuit progresses. I hope "SpyTalk" keeps us so informed ...

Posted by: Eludium-Q36 | October 19, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse


Ishmael did agree to play by the rules. It's the CIA that didn't do so. According to the complaint filed by the CIA, Mr. Jones submitted a manuscript to the CIA pre-publication review board on April 10, 2007, and the agency replied that it "informed defendant Jones that it could not approve any portion of his manuscript for publication."

In other words, it told him everything he had written couldn't be published. He offered to the CIA to have specific problems pointed out to him to no avail. The best the CIA could do was to eventually send him back his manuscript with all but a few paragraphs blacked out.

I have read "The Human Factor" and Ishmael was quite careful about not revealing classified information.

Ironically, with Panetta bringing suit two years after the book was published, he has ensured many more people will read the book than otherwise would have.

Incidentally, there is no profit for Ishmael. Any profits go toward Veteran's groups.

If you want to see a book that carelessly reveals classifed information, take a look at George Tenet's unintentionally hilarious book "In the Eye of the Storm" in which the detaining of Pakistan's nuclear father, A.Q. Kahn, after more than a decade of him spreading nuclear secrets around the globe turns out to be, in Tenet's mind, one of the CIA's greatest intelligence coups.

Posted by: DaveWebster | October 19, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Well, I have every use for the CIA, because I know firsthand that it has kept this country safe since its inception, no thanks to certain members of Congress or to former "employees" such as Jones. The arrogance of his comment about "defying the censors" boggles the mind. This notion that everyone needs to know everything about a nation's intelligence gathering is a recipe for disaster. That's just not so. I'm glad this suit is being filed, and I frankly hope it results in a long prison term for "Jones."

Posted by: georges2 | October 19, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

DW is absolutely correct. This book in no way exposes intelligence tradecraft, operational techniques, locations of operations, or targets of operations. The actual work in intel gathering by Jones is incidental to the real story which is that the CIA is a bloated bureaucracy of risk averse turds.

The most important insight in the book is that the "Mandarins" at the CIA were never fired or disciplined for their abject failures in the lead up to 9/11. This failure of accountability has led to these people now believing and acting as if they are "above the law" and will never be fired no matter how poorly they perform. We are now seeing bank executives acting in precisely the same manner as they got bailed out in 2008 and continue to run the economy into the ground in 2010.

Posted by: cabana11 | October 19, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Jones added, "As an American it's my duty to defy censors."

Defying censors is a duty of being an American?

Posted by: ghostface50 | October 20, 2010 1:52 AM | Report abuse

The Agency seems (rightly) to be really uptight about anything affecting persons under certain kinds of cover, and from the above, it seems like Ishmael fell into that category, the same as Valerie Plame. Also, if he was under that kind of cover, he would not have access to inside the building gossip, that therefore would be relatively ignorant about the subject he addresses.
The PRB is under specific instructions not to reject something simply because it is critical of the CIA. There has to be a back story to this that goes beyond contractual issues.

Posted by: DCNative41 | October 20, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The CIA simply wants to retain the right to fail to do its job, and have nobody any the wiser.

Posted by: john_bruckner | October 22, 2010 4:14 AM | Report abuse

So once again CIA tries to silence anyone who points out how completely broke, inept and corrupt that agency is. Instead of pursuing whistleblowers, why don't they actually pursue some terrorists BEFORE they conduct an operation?

Time for clandestine CIA to shut down. Give it to the military.

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | October 23, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company