Ishmael Jones is the pseudonymous former Central Intelligence Agency case officer who focused on human sources with access to intelligence on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. His assignments included more than 15 years of continuous overseas service under deep cover.
Mr. Jones is also the author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, published by Encounter Books. When it was issued in paperback he contributed the post “CIA spies and Dartmouth deans,” exploring a theme of his book.
In 2010 the CIA sued Mr. Jones over the publication of his book. He wrote about the lawsuit for us here. He now writes to comment on the resolution of the lawsuit:
In 2008 I wrote The Human Factor, criticizing the CIA’s waste of tax dollars and its growth as a domestic spy agency. I recommended increasing the number of officers posted overseas from a tiny fraction of heroes – over 90 percent of CIA officers spend their careers entirely within the United States – and instituting better financial accountability.
The book contained no classified or secret information, but the CIA barred the book’s publication in its entirety. I published it anyway. Two years later, in 2010, the Department of Justice took me to court (in USA v. Ishmael Jones, Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee).
After nearly two more years, and much taxpayer expense, the DOJ won the case in a final hearing yesterday. They got:
1. An injunction ordering me not to publish a book again without CIA approval.
2. Confiscation of any money produced by The Human Factor in the future.
I already send articles, such as this one, to the CIA for review, so #1 above is of no consequence.
I had put the money I earned from the book into investment accounts belonging to children of American soldiers killed in action. The DoJ seemed to think it would be too politically sensitive to confiscate this money, and chose not to. However, the DoJ thinks there could be money from a future lucrative movie deal, and they want that. (They got this idea from a New Yorker interview in which I suggested that Dwight K. Schrute should play me in a movie. But I was only kidding.) In the unlikely event that there was a movie, that money should likewise belong to the children of American soldiers, and there will be little political support for a DoJ that wants the money instead.
So the case would seem to have come to an inconsequential end, with no gain for the winner and no pain for the loser.
Except that the case sets a first-in-history precedent. Tactically, the DoJ did a solid job. They steered the case to their home court and convinced the judge to rule in their favor on summary judgment. This meant they won without trial. It’s like an umpire coming out on the field and calling the game for one team before the first pitch has been thrown. The DoJ was not required to show proof in order to win. I was not permitted to question them and their witnesses, or to have my day in court. There was no discovery, and no jury. This was easier for the DoJ to do in a civil case than in a criminal one. Still, it is an unusual fate for an American using the written word to criticize a government agency.
Liberty is a fragile thing. This case, with its seemingly nonsense ending, can in fact give the forces of Big Government new methods for use in silencing critics without trial. A case which has little apparent effect to either side, but which sets precedent for future cases, may lead to danger to Americans’ liberties.
Ishmael Jones is a former deep cover CIA officer and author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture.