Secrecy News

CIA Whistleblower Complaint Declassified

In May 2001, CIA officer Franz Boening submitted a memorandum to the Agency Inspector General alleging that the CIA’s relationship with disgraced Peruvian intelligence official Vladimiro Lenin Montesinos may have involved violations of U.S. law.

There is no evidence that the CIA Inspector General ever took any action in response to Mr. Boening’s memorandum, which was presented as a whistleblower complaint. CIA classification officials, however, responded quickly and energetically — to silence him.  Information contained in the Boening whistleblower complaint is classified, declared CIA information review officer Ralph S. DiMaio (pdf), and its disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause damage to national security.”

Pursuant to the non-disclosure agreement that Mr. Boening had signed upon employment at CIA, Agency officials forbade him from publicly revealing his allegations, though he said they were based on published news reports and other open sources.  And CIA classified most of the substance of his 2001 complaint (pdf), including even (or especially) the name of Montesinos.

With the assistance of attorney Mark S. Zaid, Mr. Boening went to court to challenge the Agency’s censorship of his allegations as an unlawful act of prior restraint.  Eight years after submitting the document, he emerged more or less victorious, as the CIA withdrew most of its objections, and permitted publication (pdf) of the 2001 whistleblower complaint regarding Montesinos with only a few remaining redactions.

Mr. Boening is still obliged to comply with his Agency nondisclosure obligations, advised R. Puhl, the chairman of the CIA Publications Review Board, and he must seek a new Agency review if he wishes to make any changes at all to the newly authorized text, including any deletions of material.

“If you add or delete material to or otherwise change the text the Board has approved for publication, you must submit these additions, deletions, or changes to us before giving them to your publisher or anyone else,” Mr. Puhl wrote (pdf) in a February 13, 2009 letter.