Ishmael Jones is a former CIA case officer. He is the author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, the book that serves as the point of reference in the column below. Mr. Jones advises us that this column has been approved for publication by the CIA’s Publications Review Board. He writes:
In 2008 I wrote a book that criticized CIA bureaucracy. The book contains no secrets and no one has ever suggested that it does. The CIA disapproved its publication, but I believed its publication important for American security, and published it anyway. The book is widely read within the CIA and has led to more aggressive intelligence operations and the elimination of certain types of financial fraud. I gave all money I received for the book to children of American soldiers killed in action.
By 2010, Leon Panetta had become director of the CIA. He ordered a lawsuit against me for publishing a book without proper approvals. The CIA won the lawsuit. There were no witnesses or testimony, no day in court; the judge merely ruled in summary judgment. Civil lawsuits don’t necessarily feature constitutional protections. But the CIA figured that taking the money from the book would be bad for appearances, so there was no penalty.
In 2014, Leon Panetta published a book of his own. The original manuscript contained what CIA people agreed were extensive amounts of secret intelligence. Mr. Panetta had sent the manuscript to his ghostwriters, literary agents and publishers before allowing the CIA to see it. This secret intelligence is today in dozens of computers owned by creative literary people who have no experience or clearances for handling classified intelligence. (Greg Miller first broke the story of Mr. Panetta’s book approval process in the Washington Post on October 21, 2014.)
I’ve read Mr. Panetta’s book and even in its edited version it contains a rich trove of intelligence which can be put together to identify Americans and our foreign agents. From conversations with colleagues at the CIA, I learned that Mr. Panetta huffed and puffed and browbeat people using “Do you know who I am?” methods in order to obtain approval to publish the final version of his book.
Mr. Panetta appears to believe the book is his payoff for a career as a powerful bureaucrat, his droit de seigneur. The book is ghostwritten, but Mr. Panetta supplied the secrets that make it profitable. The “Worthy Fights” are Mr. Panetta’s fights against Republicans and other advocates of small government. Those are his real enemies. Terrorists and nuclear proliferators come across at times in the book as abstractions.
All intelligence needs to be sifted and analyzed. Unlike the traitor Aldrich Ames, who provided tactical intelligence which the Soviets used to identify and then execute agents working on behalf of the United States, Mr. Panetta provides clues and bits of puzzles.
The New York Times publishes a daily crossword puzzle. On Monday the puzzle is the easiest, progressing through the week in difficulty until Saturday’s which is the hardest. The intelligence that Aldrich Ames supplied to the Soviets was like the Monday puzzle, easy for the Soviets to put together, but also narrower, tactical intelligence. The intelligence that Mr. Panetta supplies is like the Saturday puzzle, harder to put together, but also more strategic and rewarding for America’s enemies.
Aldrich Ames received $4.6 million to betray America. Mr. Panetta received $3 million. Ames will die in jail. Mr. Panetta will swan about freely and enjoy his ill-gotten gains for the rest of his life.
Mr. Panetta deserves complete constitutional protections: his day in court, and a jury trial. I can show a jury how, in page after page, Mr. Panetta’s book betrays Americans and our allies.
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