JOHN KIRIAKOU: Bolton’s Book Is Good to Go

You don’t have to like the former national security adviser to see why his book, after surviving top-security clearance, should be published.    

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s new book, “The Room Where It Happened,” is due to be published on June 23, despite President Donald Trump’s protestations that publication would be a major national security crime.  The White House went to court — and lost on Friday — to block the book’s release.  And Trump mused publicly about charging Bolton with national security crimes.  I doubt that will happen.  But publication will likely happen for a host of reasons. 

First, I must say that this column is in no way whatsoever an endorsement of John Bolton, his tenure as national security adviser, or his genocidal, war-mongering worldview.  But on the issue of the publication of his memoir, Bolton is right and Trump is wrong.

Every federal employee with a top-secret security clearance must, for the rest of his or her life, submit all articles, books, and even letters to the editor, for prepublication review to ensure that they contain no classified information. 

We all sign these lifetime secrecy agreements on the first day of our employment in the intelligence community.  But the process is deeply flawed and frequently political.  It all began in the 1970s with a federal case called United States v. Marchetti

Victor Marchetti was a CIA analyst from 1955 to 1969.  He resigned to become a writer, and in 1972 he wrote a non-fiction book about the CIA that was serialized in Esquire magazine.  The CIA procured a copy of the article and asked a federal court to issue a temporary injunction against publication of the book, arguing that it contained classified information and the names of undercover officers. 

A judge in the Eastern District of Virginia issued the injunction, held a hearing, found for the CIA, and issued a permanent injunction against Marchetti’s book.  Marchetti appealed to the Supreme Court and lost.  He continued working on the book and, a year later, resubmitted the manuscript for clearance.  The CIA returned it with 339 passages redacted.  On appeal, that was reduced to 168. 

The Marchetti Standard

Marchetti may have lost his case, but the court’s ruling set a standard for all future authors with security clearances.  Sure, it mandated that all manuscripts have to be cleared.  It also mandated that the clearing authority (usually the CIA) could confiscate all profits from any book that is not sent through review.  But it also gave the various “publications review boards” only 60 days to complete their reviews.  The boards, then, could not just sit on a manuscript because they didn’t like the contents. 

In my own case, my first book took nine months to write and 22 months to clear.  The CIA demanded that I redact 120 pages.  I hired an attorney and fought the decision.  It was rough, but in the end I won.  Still, the book was more than a year late to the publisher. 

I submitted my second and third books to the CIA on the same day, Dec. 26, 2015.  Sixty days came and went.  Finally, a month later, I received an email from the CIA.  It said that they had been trying to call me (likely because they hadn’t wanted to put anything in writing) but they had an old number.  They complained that I had submitted the manuscripts the day after Christmas, they had a lot of people out on vacation, they were short two reviewers, blah, blah, blah. 

Then to my shock, they said they needed another year to review the books.  I said, “Forget it.  Your staff shortages are not my problem.  The law says 60 days.  You’ve already had more than 100.  I’m sending the books to the publisher.”  Just a few days later I received a letter from the CIA.  The books were cleared in their entirety.

We know a lot about what John Bolton did to get his book cleared.  He sent the manuscript to the National Security Council’s publications review board on Dec. 30, 2019, three months after Trump fired him.  He worked closely with a designated officer to ensure that it contained no classified information.  He fudged dates and names to protect sources and methods.  He agreed to all of the changes that the White House demanded. 

But once he had clearance from this dedicated officer, her supervisor decided that he wanted to chop on the book.  He decided that it was still full of classified information and that it couldn’t be published. 

This points to a bigger problem.  Who decides what is or should be classified?  Why isn’t the problem of over-classification ever addressed?  Why is there no punishment for those reviewers who illegally block publication or who demand unnecessary redactions?  Why is there no punishment for reviewers who can’t or won’t get their jobs done in the requisite 60 days?

A federal judge on Friday, while taking a few potshots at Bolton as a person, nonetheless ruled that the publication of his book could go forward.  Trump’s protestations that he should face criminal charges will come to nothing.  And CNN legal genius Jeffrey Toobin’s claims that the intelligence community will likely seize Bolton’s book profits are based on nothing.  Bolton did what the law and the system demand that he does.  We don’t have to like the guy.  But he did the right thing.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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25 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: Bolton’s Book Is Good to Go

  1. Brain Radio
    June 24, 2020 at 02:52

    John I hate Neocon Bolton as a personification of the Black Plague but I’d still defend his right to publish his stupid book even though I’d probably use it as a door stop if given a free copy.

  2. Pft
    June 23, 2020 at 19:23

    Doesn’t seem like there is much to his book. I suspect Trump just playing along to help boost Boltons sales. More fake wrestling.

  3. david zaiss
    June 23, 2020 at 18:00

    From one whistle blower to another– sorry about the jailtime, glad I only had to do 27 days. Loved your book Doing Time Like a Spy. Your take on doing time kinda set my impatience aside and my mind to work, but concerned about libel/slander charges I asked my editor about the likelihood of being sued for writing a book: “Is it true?” she asked. “Yes.” “Then you have nothing to worry about.” Then this came in the mail (I used it as foreword): “It has come to our attention that you may be planning on distributing a certain publication that could be injurious to the school. We want to warn you that if you follow through with your plans we will pursue every legal option available to the full extent of the law.” The school hasn’t pursued all of their options, not yet anyway. Banning me and my book from campus has been it, as legally optional as they’ve gotten. They charged me with trespassing when I was trying to sing with the local college chorale, accompanied by the local symphony– three times. It’s in the book; see:

  4. dean 1000
    June 23, 2020 at 14:26

    Yeah, good that Bolton’s book will get published. I wouldn’t read Bolton’s book because of his reputation as a crazy imperialist and Israel’s bitch.

    Judging by the interview with Martha Raddatz Bolton’s real complaint is that Trump didn’t completely abandon the issues that got him elected and follow the instructions of John Bolton.

  5. jimmy
    June 23, 2020 at 10:47

    Anyone should be able to publish whatever they choose. Bolton will have his version of lies, and Biden / DNC will apply like plaster to continue the “HATE TRUMP” election campaign. Lies vs Lies ( rather than “Spy vs Spy”…. it’s still Mad Magazine.

  6. Michael
    June 23, 2020 at 08:56

    Bolton is a war criminal and SERIAL LIAR whose word is not to be trusted under any circumstances.

  7. Zhu
    June 23, 2020 at 06:25

    Does the book have any literary merits? Can Bolton tell a good story? Is his prose crisp or stylish anyway? I suppose he’s not up to the Grand Style of a Gibbon, but I hope it’s not the usual verbal mush. I fear the worst, though.

  8. LuciusPat
    June 23, 2020 at 00:52

    So the National Security Council’s publication review board was the group over-seeing the book preview? As National Security Adviser, wasn’t Bolton the head of that group? Sounds like conflict of interest… Everybody is chasing the dollar these days, country be damned.

      June 23, 2020 at 05:12

      He hasn’t been the head of the National Security Council since Sept. 2019, nine months ago. Bolton submitted his book for review on Dec. 30, 2019.

    • AnneR
      June 23, 2020 at 10:31

      CN – while Bolton was not, at the time of his writing then submitting his book for approval or whatnot, he doubtless had many chummy, chummy relations with the folks in the NSC. So it is difficult to ignore this (as one shouldn’t) reality. And as we know from all that has gone on over the past three plus years, no one in the MICIMATT institutions respects the Strumpet because he is not exactly the type they are used to dealing with (smooth, nicely spoken, willing to do what ruling elites want – well, sort of not at least not in the ways that they want [i.e. to maintain the perception of the USA as being superior, as “rightfully” dominant]; he’s a real estate broker, a tv “personality” nothing more). So these people are more than willing to counter his every move because it a) reveals what the US is really all about; b) because he doesn’t always follow instructions.

      How anyone could believe Bolton, trust his view given the a***hole HE is (as is the Strumpet, albeit differently so). But then Bolton’s claims feed into the Blue Face narratives….So they *must* be true.

      Talk about Orwellian….

  9. robert e williamson jr
    June 22, 2020 at 22:36

    I like the idea that Bolton is a thorn in Trumps side it’s about the only meaningful contribution to the benefit of the country he has managed, in my pinion.

    But I digress.

    John I’m with you 100% on the classification of everything under the sun in a effort to suppress the damage the truth about certain individuals and programs that legitimately need to be challenged might reveal.

    John you say, ” he did what the law and the system demand he does.” I agree, and I have little respect or admiration for him. I would though like to point out that your comment “He did the right thing.” falls a little short, again in my opinion, Bolton, a graduate of Yale Law and knew full well how he needed to handle his issues with the security classification people. I agree he will get his money likely tons of it, judging from the number of former Trumpians starting to show up. Hell they will fall for anything evidently.

    But John you are correct Trump was wrong and Bolton was right about the book!

    Good stuff! Thanks to CN as always.

  10. John Drake
    June 22, 2020 at 21:00

    The ABC interview Sunday was quite interesting. What surprised me is that he maintained enough composure to look like a rational man, not the fanatic he is. This is the former ambassador to the UN who didn’t believe in the UN, and was quite disruptive like an unruly child.

    As one of the original people involved in the Project for the New American Century, he helped craft the apocalyptic foreign policy of the W. Bush regime. He reminds me of Senator Barry Goldwater (“extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”). A chicken hawk, he joined the Maryland NG to avoid putting his own precious ass in mortal jeopardy in ‘Nam; but made a career of promoting aggression against a whole host of the “enemies” de jour of the US.

    He chased a whistleblower around a hotel throwing things at her and banging on her hotel door several nights. Definitely a volatile personality not to be disagreed with and a talent for being totally off the wall. Diplomacy is not part of his repertoire.

    He may not be as unhinged as Trump, but definitely has a one track mind-the path to war. A better match would be him and Hillary;, though I doubt she would have someone that unpolished, even though they are similarly warmongering.

    All that said, most of what he let loose has been known about Trump; he just reinforced it with a insider’s perspective; while simultaneously indicting himself as a co-conspirator.

    • Torontonian
      June 23, 2020 at 10:58

      Excellent comments. People need to focus on the fact that he had NO problem taking a post during Trump — calling him a co-conspirator is being nice. Apparatchik, amoral, opportunist, narcissistic all good descriptions.

      Your comparison to Hilary Clinton is perfect– both destructive amoral “people”

    • June 23, 2020 at 14:20

      He chased a whistleblower around a hotel throwing things at her and banging on her hotel door several nights. Definitely a volatile personality not to be disagreed with and a talent for being totally off the wall. Diplomacy is not part of his repertoire.

      He may not be as unhinged as Trump…
      From the description, Trump has his lucid moments and Bolton does not. NATO-related think tanks seem to me like experiments to make viruses that would would be virulent on ferrets from viruses that infect bats. You infect ferret cell culture, some viruses survive, you replicate those in bat cell cultures and infect ferret culture again, repeating as frequently as you can (this true technique gave rise to the theory of COVID-19 being a lab-bred virus). The memes of world domination and war are bred in think tanks to be more and more apocalyptic and inhumane. And carriers like Bolton are most definitely unhinged.

  11. Aaron
    June 22, 2020 at 17:25

    I would say that clearly Bolton is a much worse, dangerous person than Trump, this will probably, just like so many other counter-intuitive attacks on Trump, probably help Trump alot, because Bolton is, you said it yourself, an unhinged genocidal maniac, so anything he would claim, would be at best, sour grapes, at worst, possibly just slander. I mean, I for one, was really happy that Bolton is not involved with anything our government does anymore, because I was really afraid he would be the freak that would finally get his dream and instigate war with Iran. Trump at least has not gotten us in any more wars, and that’s saying something compared to many, including Democrats who pushed us into Libya and several other conflicts. I can’t believe anybody would actually pay a cent to buy this prick’s book.

  12. Sam F
    June 22, 2020 at 17:02

    The corrupt USG has other ways to seize book publishing proceeds, and regularly does so.
    They will start giving away free digital copies on piracy websites to block sales revenue.
    Do a web search on the Bolton book in two to four months and find the illegal pirated offers.
    Then if you have years to spare, trace the layers of websites and shell corporations into the weeds.
    Sue them in federal court, and the USG refuses to seal the case and publishes your evidence to notify the pirates.
    I have already done this and had to sue the USG for this crime, and its corrupt judiciary merely lied as always.
    The USG backs or runs the copyright piracy websites to suppress public information and freedom of speech.

  13. Pablo Diablo
    June 22, 2020 at 16:06

    Repete, “We don’t have to like the guy”. There is nothing to like about John Bolton. I never thought he would turn. What did it? Trump’s refusal to bomb Iran?

  14. June 22, 2020 at 15:48

    How can a warmongering genocidal maniac ever do the right thing?

    • AnneR
      June 23, 2020 at 10:38

      Right on, Robert B Hayes, right on.

  15. Michael McNulty
    June 22, 2020 at 15:42

    Whatever one thinks of Trump, Bolton has shown that when powerful people don’t get their way and discover they’re not as powerful as they thought they were they’ll go belly-aching about whoever slighted them. Out in Main Street we call that bitching.

    Bolton’s “tell-all” is what kids do when they don’t get their way, and as a Zionist who wanted to bomb the world for Israel using national security as an excuse (claiming America was under threat), to then breach national security to publish his tattle shows just how duplicitous Bolton always was and why he needed to be removed. A thoroughly unpleasant and dangerous fellow.

    • Vickie
      June 22, 2020 at 17:01

      No more than the President!

    • Torontonian
      June 23, 2020 at 11:06

      Perfect analysis– its amazing how many “adults” are still children emotionally and in social interactions. So bloody insecure that he has to do the book after only 9 months in his role (got to get my side out!!!) Geez– sour grapes is right!

      As I have experienced that too many “adults” respond just like him when you say sorry not going to deal with you any more. It seems the worst thing you can do to people to to ignore them–their advice, their presence and their ideas. Their ego gets bruised and they hit back. So pathetic.

      Makes you wonder about his parents—–

  16. Drew Hunkins
    June 22, 2020 at 14:52

    Yeah, go ahead and publish it, but remember the author was thoroughly dejected like a spoiled toddler when Trump declined to murder 150 innocent Iranian soldiers.

    • Torontonian
      June 23, 2020 at 11:07

      Hear hear!!

  17. Piotr Berman
    June 22, 2020 at 13:56

    Bolton did the right thing requesting the prepublication review. He is also a leader in a band of homicidal maniacs and liars, but this is a separate topic.

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