CIA Blocks Manuscript Of Former Operative Agency Calls Parts Of Book ClassifiedBy Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 24, 2000; Page A04
The Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to allow a flamboyant former operative to publish portions of a manuscript about his 14-year spy career, saying numerous passages in the book contain classified information.
The CIA's simmering dispute with former operative Bob Baer erupted last week when CIA security officers arrived at the downtown office of Baer's attorney, Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official, and picked up all copies of a letter Toensing had written to the CIA on Baer's behalf.
CIA officials contended that the letter contained classified information, including a list of the disputed subjects in Baer's nonfiction manuscript, and should not have been circulated outside secure government facilities, CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said.
Harlow added that Toensing's son, Brady C. Toensing, an attorney in the firm, agreed to delete a copy of the letter from a computer drive at the law office.
Baer could not be reached yesterday for comment. Neither Victoria Toensing nor her son was available for comment.
Baer, who left the CIA in 1997, appeared as a consultant on the CBS News program "60 Minutes" three weeks ago and lent credibility to the account of an Iranian defector who claimed to have documentary evidence that Iran was behind the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1996 attack on a U.S. military housing complex in Saudi Arabia.
CIA and FBI officials subsequently concluded that the defector, who identified himself as a high-ranking Iranian intelligence officer named Ahmad Behbahani, was an impostor who lacked basic knowledge of Iran's intelligence apparatus.
In 1997, Baer was the mysterious intelligence officer identified during Senate hearings as "Bob from the CIA" after he secretly told a friend on the staff of the House intelligence committee about the unusual efforts of Roger Tamraz, an oil pipeline promoter and Democratic Party donor, to secure an audience at the Clinton White House.
When Tamraz's efforts to curry favor at the White House became a scandal, the CIA's inspector general began investigating Baer for improperly contacting Congress, prompting his friends at the agency and on Capitol Hill to view him as a convenient scapegoat.
If all that weren't enough fodder for a book, Baer also played a key role in helping a group of Iraqi dissidents led by Ahmed Chalabi, chairman of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), plan a direct assault on Iraq's army from a safe haven in northern Iraq in March 1995. The Iraqis referred to the attack as "the Bob plan."
But the Clinton administration backed away, ordering Baer to tell Chalabi that the United States was withdrawing its support for any invasion, a move that split two Kurdish groups backing Chalabi and ultimately led to a massacre of INC soldiers by Iraqi forces the following year.
These and other episodes from Baer's career were recounted in the manuscript he submitted in December to the CIA's Publication Review Board for clearance.
The PRB is responsible for making sure all current and former CIA employees abide by lifetime secrecy agreements. Those agreements require them to submit for review anything related to intelligence that they intend to publish or broadcast.
After negotiating with the PRB in recent months over passages the board refused to clear for publication, Baer filed an appeal earlier this month with executive director David Carey, the official empowered under CIA regulations to rule on disputes involving the review board. Once the executive director rules, the next level of appeal is to the federal courts.
"There are portions of [the manuscript] which we believe to be classified, and we were working with him to find ways for him to tell his story without damaging national security," Harlow said. In the past five years, he added, the PRB has cleared 1,400 manuscripts of books, articles and screenplays and generated four appeals to the executive director.
The CIA has a history of zealously enforcing agreements requiring prepublication review of any written or oral statements regarding intelligence beyond "spontaneous" remarks made to journalists or in public forums.
In its most celebrated dispute involving prepublication review, the CIA sued
former operative Frank Snepp over "Decent Interval," his best-selling 1977
account of how the CIA and the State Department bungled the evacuation of
Saigon and abandoned thousands of loyal South Vietnamese. Snepp took the
case all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the secrecy agreements
and said the CIA could seize all of Snepp's profits from the book.
(c) Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company