Steve Clemons has a statement from Flynt Leverett about the NSC’s efforts to keep him from publishing a oped in the _NYT_ about Iran. Leverett talked about this during the Friday CAP/TCF event that I “blogged about”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1300/iran-fwiw, but I figured someone else could and would tell the story.
The statement is below, but go read the “whole post.”:http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/001829.php
Since leaving government service in 2003, I have been publicly critical of the Bush administration’s mishandling of America’s Iran policy — in two op-eds published in the New York Times, another published in the Los Angeles Times, an article published earlier this year in The American Prospect, and a monograph just published by The Century Foundation, as well as in numerous public statements, television appearances, and press interviews.
All of my publications on Iran — and, indeed, on any other policy matter on which I have written since leaving government — were cleared beforehand by the CIA’s Publication Review Board to confirm that I would not be disclosing classified information.
Until last week, the Publication Review Board had never sought to remove or change a single word in any of my drafts, including in all of my publications about the Bush administration’s handling of Iran policy. However, last week, the White House inserted itself into the prepublication review process for an op-ed on the administration’s bungling of the Iran portfolio that I had prepared for the New York Times, blocking publication of the piece on the grounds that it would reveal classified information.
This claim is false and, I have come to believe, fabricated by White House officials to silence an established critic of the administration’s foreign policy incompetence at a moment when the White House is working hard to fend off political pressure to take a different approach to Iran and the Middle East more generally.
The op-ed is based on the longer paper I just published with The Century Foundation — which was cleared by the CIA without modifying a single word of the draft. Officials with the CIA’s Publication Review Board have told me that, in their judgment, the draft op-ed does not contain classified material, but that they must bow to the preferences of the White House.
The White House is demanding, before it will consider clearing the op-ed for publication, that I excise entire paragraphs dealing with matters that I have written about (and received clearance from the CIA to do so) in several other pieces, that have been publicly acknowledged by Secretary Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and that have been extensively covered in the media.
These matters include Iran’s dialogue and cooperation with the United States concerning Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and Iran’s offer to negotiate a comprehensive “grand bargain” with the United States in the spring of 2003.
There is no basis for claiming that these issues are classified and not already in the public domain.
For the White House to make this claim, with regard to my op-ed and at this particular moment, is nothing more than a crass effort to politicize a prepublication review process — a process that is supposed to be about the protection of classified information, and nothing else — to limit the dissemination of views critical of administration policy.
Within the last two week, the CIA found the wherewithal to approve an op-ed — published in the New York Times on December 8, 2006 — by Kenneth Pollack, another former CIA employee. This op-ed includes the statement that â€œIran provided us with extensive assistance on intelligence, logistics, diplomacy, and Afghan internal politics.”
Similar statements by me have been deleted from my draft op-ed by the White House. But Kenneth Pollack is someone who presented unfounded assessments of the Iraqi WMD threat — the same assessments expounded by the Bush White House — to make a high-profile public case for going to war in Iraq.
Mr. Pollack also supports the administration’s reluctance to engage with Iran, in contrast to my consistent and sharp criticism of that position. It would seem that, if one is expounding views congenial to the White House, it does not intervene in prepublication censorship, but, if one is a critic, White House officials will use fraudulent charges of revealing classified information to keep critical views from being heard.
My understanding is that the White House staffers who have injected themselves into this process are working for Elliott Abrams and Megan O’Sullivan, both politically appointed deputies to President Bush’s National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley.
Their conduct in this matter is despicable and un-American in the profoundest sense of that term. I am also deeply disappointed that former colleagues at the Central Intelligence Agency have proven so supine in the face of tawdry political pressure. Intelligence officers are supposed to act better than that.