Slaughter asks Bush why he censored op-ed
Wednesday December 20, 2006
The White House's controversial handling of an unpublished op-ed by a former official continued to draw ire from policy makers and critics today, as Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) sent President Bush a letter asking him to explain his rationale for redacting major portions of former CIA official Flynt Leverett's New York Times column, RAW STORY has learned.
In the letter, Slaughter suggests that, because Leverett's op-ed was based on his more detailed but fully-cleared policy paper, the CIA's rubric for censoring published work of former officials must have been inconsistently applied:
"If, indeed, redacting the information from the op-ed was necessary for national security purposes, then the CIA's failure to deem the information in the previously published version of the article as classified may have put our security at risk. If classifying information in the previously published version of the article was not necessary, then I am left to believe that your Administration redacted information for political purposes."
Slaughter also questioned the administration's rationale for, as RAW STORY reported on Monday, redacting several paragraphs of the op-ed despite assurances from people working on the pre-publication review board that the column contained not a word of classified information.
The text of the letter appears below, and a pdf copy of the actual letter is available here. RAW STORY will continue to follow the controversy as the story evolves.
December 19, 2006
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to seek clarification of the processes and policies employed by your Administration in determining whether materials contain classified information and when to withhold information from the public.
According to an article published in the Washington Post today, Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council Advisory, who left the Administration in 2003, suggested that the White House had redacted substantial passages of an opinion article on Iran. According to Mr. Leverett, this article was “only a summary of a longer paper” he had written a few weeks earlier which the CIA had cleared as “containing no classified information.”
I am concerned that your Administration is employing inconsistent policies when classifying information. If, indeed, redacting the information from the op-ed was necessary for national security purposes, then the CIA’s failure to deem the information in the previously published version of the article as classified may have put our security at risk. If classifying information in the previously published version of the article was not necessary, then I am left to believe that your Administration redacted information for political purposes.
I would also appreciate an explanation behind your Administration’s decision to redact substantial passages from Mr. Leverett’s op-ed, even though reportedly the CIA had already cleared the information based on which Mr. Leverett had drafted those passages.
Given the questions this incident raises about your Administration’s consistency in applying policies and processes to reviewing classified information and your willingness to allow criticism by the national security and intelligence communities that disagree with your policies, I ask that you clarify and explain policies pertaining to how and when
information is deemed classified and also your decision to intervene in the publication of the article written by Mr. Leverett.
Thank you for reviewing my request, and I await your response.
Louise M. Slaughter
Member of Congress