IMPORTANT NOTE CONCERNING THE TEXT
I would like to explain to readers why there are redactions throughout this book.
As a former FBI special agent, I was required by contract to submit my manuscript for review to ensure that it did not reveal classified information. I would have submitted the manuscript for review even if I’d had no legal obligation to do so.
For three months, the FBI conducted its review, and after requesting specific changes, the bureau sent me a letter saying that the manuscript was “approved for publication with respect to FBI information.” In the same letter, the FBI informed me that the manuscript had been sent to the CIA for review. This was strange, as I have never reported to the CIA or had any contractual agreement with them. While I understood that the FBI might feel the need to consult with others in the intelligence community about certain material in the book, there was absolutely no reason to subject me to a second full-blown prepublication review. Nonetheless, I waited, and after a series of delays, I received two separate responses. On August 2, 2011, the CIA sent a list of concerns to the FBI regarding chapters 1–15, and on August 9, the agency sent concerns regarding chapter 16 to the end of the book. At this point I was told that the manuscript was “approved for publication” once the concerns were addressed.
Less than half a day after receiving each list, I sent responses to the FBI, with examples, showing that the material the CIA wanted to redact fell into four categories: it was in the public domain; it was FBI information; it was declassified CIA information; or it did not meet classification guidelines. In the fourth case, these strict guidelines protect the public from the practice of any agency’s illegally classifying information for reasons other than that of national security, such as trying to censor embarrassment or cover up mistakes.
In response, the FBI told me that the CIA “took back” their redactions and that the agency was planning to send an even more extensive set—which they did, on August 16, 2011. These redactions, like the others, violate classification guidelines and range from the ridiculous to the absurd. They include censoring part of a public exchange between a U.S. senator and myself that was broadcast live on national television.
Because I committed to publishing the book on September 12, 2011, I reluctantly offer it with all of the CIA’s redactions. The power of the tale is such that any effort to rob it of its meaning could hardly be effective, and I trust that despite the black lines blocking portions of the text, a relatively unimpeded view of The Black Banners remains.
I have requested that the FBI review the CIA’s concerns and dismiss them, and if they fail in their duty, I plan to compel disclosure of the redacted information through legal means.
—Ali H. Soufan
August 23, 2011