CIA releases -- and later reclassifies -- much of former officer's book, lawsuit says

Monday, March 6, 2006

WASHINGTON -- A member of the CIA's first post-9/11 class is alleging in a federal lawsuit that the agency violated his First Amendment rights by ordering dozens of deletions in his book about spy training after initially approving it.

T.J. Waters was chosen from more than 150,000 who submitted their resumes to the CIA, hoping to contribute personally to the U.S. government's counterterror operations. He worked for the agency from 2002 to 2004, going through training for the clandestine service but ultimately joining the CIA's intelligence analysis division for a short time.

Waters' book -- "Class 11: Inside the CIA's First Post-9/11 Spy Class" -- chronicles his year at the CIA's training facility where recruits learn how to use disguises, how to withstand interrogation techniques and other spycraft. Known as "The Farm," the center's precise location, near Williamsburg, Va., remains classified.

Waters said his class of more than 100 included a New York comedian, an executive chef, a professional athlete and the fiancee of a World Trade Center victim.

The story, he said, puts their training in the context of world events: the snipers in Washington, the Columbia shuttle disaster and the dire warnings from the Homeland Security Department to buy plastic and duct tape.

Older and more professionally experienced than the CIA's typical recruits, his classmates were later dispatched to Baghdad, post-tsunami Indonesia and other locales. "It is good for people to understand that these are normal human beings who are trying to do a hard job under extraordinary circumstances," Waters said Saturday evening.

Current and former CIA employees are allowed to publish books, but they must first be cleared by a special review board to ensure they don't contain classified information. Waters said he believes CIA Director Porter Goss opposes agency personnel writing books and has put the publications review staff under pressure to slow the process.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Dyck said the director is not seeking delays in the reviews. She said the prepublication review board exists to ensure that classified information is protected.

"All former employees must go through this process," Dyck said. "The goal is to clear manuscripts as quickly as possible, but more complex books that get into classified details do take longer."

Goss has indicated he wants to get back to the agency's more clandestine roots. "We remain a secret agency," Goss told employees in a memo made public.

Recently, Goss has been highly critical of the damage done by leaks of classified information. "I'm stunned to the quick when I get questions from my professional counterparts saying, 'Mr. Goss, can't you Americans keep a secret?"' he told Congress last month.

Waters is going through the established publication process. His attorney, Mark Zaid, said Waters submitted his book to the agency in May 2004 and, by September 2004, only four words were blocked from publication. Waters resubmitted changes for a final review just over two months later.

But last month, after more than a year of waiting, the agency informed him that dozens of deletions would be required -- many of them blocking previously cleared material, he said. The publisher, Penguin Group's Dutton, was planning to distribute the book next month.

Waters alleges in a federal lawsuit filed Friday that the agency's actions violate its own internal guidelines, which establish a 30-day review for manuscripts, and his constitutional right to free speech.

With his book spanning nearly 300 pages, Waters is trying to join a small group within the agency's tens of thousands of former employees who leave and record their experiences. They range from unflattering portraits of bureaucratic bungling to cloak-and-dagger memoirs that read like fiction.

The publications rile some traditionalists who say CIA career experience shouldn't become public or used for personal gain.

Waters, 40, said he left the agency after less than two years for family reasons and now works as a contract intelligence analyst for the Defense Department. The book may get mixed reactions at the CIA, he said, but "it's probably one of the more positive books to come out."

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