CIA kills agent’s novel for using ‘classified’ terms like ‘conch fritters’ and ‘dog track’

By Tom Boggioni
Monday, July 14, 2014 13:26 EDT
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A CIA agent has filed suit against his employers claiming his career has been derailed after he submitted a novel for approval which cast the agency in a bad light, and used ‘classified’ terms like ‘conch fritters’, ‘dog track’, and ‘tropical breeze.’

The lawsuit by the agent, using the name Jim Markson, names fourteen CIA officers – thirteen of them identified only by their first name and an initial – and ‘John Doe’ CIA agents as defendants. The suit accuses the defendants of retaliation and violating his rights to free speech and due process, according to Courthouse News.

According to the suit, the novel’s plot “… involves the efforts of a fictional CIA intelligence officer who works with a fictional former asset, without the knowledge of the CIA, trying to prevent [terrorist] attacks. A secondary theme of the above draft manuscript involves the fictional intelligence officer’s struggle with dysfunctional supervisors and managers that the agency employed/tolerated.”

“The draft manuscript paints a fictional portrait of the CIA and the Intelligence Community, spinning yarns of bureaucratic intrigue, abuse, and frustration. Despite this very credible bureaucratic employment setting, all material aspects of the plot were drawn strictly from Markson’s imagination,” the suit states.

The CIA maintains a Publication Review Board (PRB) responsible for reviewing all writing — fiction and non-fiction — by current and former CIA officers. The task of the board is to see that nothing that is classified or could affect the agency’s mission makes it into print.

In his complaint Markson states he was selected for a covert foreign mission in 2012 but, after the PRB read his manuscript, he was taken off the mission and has been denied subsequent requests for jobs within the agency.

According to Markson, the PRB held a hearing on the manuscript and determined that it contained classified material, calling it “an autobiographical work of nonfiction.”

Markson said he rewrote sections of the book that concerned the board, but the board still claimed that publication “would be inappropriate for a current staff employee, and could impair the performance of duties by Markson and/or the Agency.”

Markson’s complaint states that other similarly situated members of the agency have written espionage novels and that the board failed to specify what material was classified, as required by Agency regulations.

“As a result, words such as ‘conch fritters’, ‘dog track’, ‘tropical breeze’, ‘mangrove swamp’ and the names of any city, county, state, or geographic location, was redacted as ‘classified.’ Associated with above, the names of various business and establishments, some of which never existed and were wholly made up, were also deemed ‘classified,’” the complaint states.

Markson asks the court to declare the agency’s actions in violation of his First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

He is also seeking compensatory and punitive damages for not being able to market his book, “keeping in mind the substantial economic blow the manuscript suffered by not capitalizing on the timing following the Boston Marathon bombings when interest in terrorist activity was at a peak.”

[secret agent holding a gun on Shutterstock]

Tom Boggioni
Tom Boggioni
Tom Boggioni is based in the quaint seaside community of Pacific Beach in less quaint San Diego. He writes about politics, media, culture, and other annoyances. Mostly he spends his days at the beach gazing at the horizon waiting for the end of the world, or the sun to go down. Whichever comes first.
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