Speech at the CIA

Speech at the CIA


I would place CIA officials in much the same category as FSOs, particularly those working under FSO cover at foreign embassies. Limitations on the speech of CIA officials are arguably more important, since the protection of intelligence sources and methods is crucial to our national security. That said, I have no problem with the publication of Michael Scheuer’s book, Imperial Hubris, because it was, in fact, cleared and authorized by his employer in accordance with the law.

Mark Zaid’s review of Imperial Hubris includes a discussion of these CIA’s regulations, which are even more onerous than the clearance process at State. And, quite sensibly in my view, the CIA has the right to enforce those regulations even against ex-employees who fail to get clearance for publishing certain classified information. (See Snepp v. United States, and this summary of the process from the CIA’s website; yes, they even review cook books!) Zaid notes that Scheuer’s book first came to publication under “anonymous” at the behest of the CIA, which had previously authorized Scheuer, an “overt” analyst, to give on-the-record interviews about Al Qaeda, Scheuer’s area of expertise. It was only after he resigned from the CIA that Scheuer was free to promote the book, something the CIA had prohibited (well within its rights) while he was still on the payroll. Since Porter Goss took over as DCI, the CIA is apparently looking into revising the rules under which Scheuer’s book was approved.

I do think there is one slight distinction worth noting about the clearance process at CIA and that at State, and it lies in the nature of the functions of those agencies. The work of diplomats is largely out in the open; their function is to be the public face of the United States and to engage with their foreign counterparts . The CIA’s work is by design largely hidden. The rationales underlying each agency’s regulation of employee speech reflect that distinction.

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