Secrecy News

Court Rebuffs FBI Censorship of Manuscript

A federal court last week rejected most of the objections raised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to publication of a 500-page manuscript critical of the FBI counterterrorism program that was written by retired FBI Special Agent Robert G. Wright.  The manuscript had been submitted for pre-publication review in October 2001.

“This is a sad and discouraging tale,” wrote Judge Gladys Kessler in a May 6 order (pdf), referring to the FBI’s handling of the manuscript.

“In its efforts to suppress this information, the FBI repeatedly changed its position, presented formalistic objections to release of various portions of the documents in question, admitted finally that much of the material it sought to suppress was in fact in the public domain and had been all along, and now concedes that several of the reasons it originally offered for censorship no longer have any validity,” Judge Kessler observed.

The 41-page, partially redacted court ruling reviewed the facts of the pre-publication review dispute as well as the legal standards for official censorship of such materials, and dismissed all but one government objection to the manuscript.  The court also dismissed other government objections to release of written answers to interview questions submitted by then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller.