Statement by CIA Spokesman Bill Harlow
What do you do when your new book lands on the market with a resounding thud? One school of thought is to write something outrageous in the newspapers to try to attract attention to yourself and the book. Sadly, that is the course author David Wise adopted. In an op-ed piece in the November 7 edition of The New York Times he accuses the CIA of attempting to censor his work. This is complete and utter nonsense.
Wise’s book is the fifth or sixth attempt by someone to write about the case of convicted FBI spy Robert Hanssen. At the CIA we have far better things to do than to worry about yet another book on Mr. Hanssen. But we were concerned when we learned that Mr. Wise intended to name a currently serving undercover officer who had the misfortune of falling under suspicion of being a Russian agent before Hanssen was caught. Numerous respected journalists, including reporters for The New York Times, were aware of the name of the CIA officer well over a year ago. They wrote about this officer’s ordeal in August 2001, but responsibly chose not to publish the name of an undercover officer who continues to serve his nation in a sensitive assignment.
After Mr. Wise declined requests from the CIA, and the individual himself, to act in a similarly reasonable fashion, the Director of Central Intelligence wrote his publisher to ask his assistance in maintaining this officer’s cover. Mr. Wise misleads the readers of the New York Times by suggesting that the CIA was trying to avoid embarrassing publicity. On the contrary, the officer involved, through his lawyer, even offered to be interviewed for the book. His only condition was that his true name be withheld.
I respond to Mr. Wise’s diatribe reluctantly. In doing so I know I am giving him precisely what he wants – attention for his book. But I cannot let his accusation that CIA was trying to censor him stand. No doubt he will take our response as an opportunity to try to get himself booked on television shows to talk about his otherwise unremarkable book.
We are also concerned that the New York Times would run Mr. Wise’s accusations of censorship without checking the facts first. Had they done so, they would have heard a much different story…and would have learned that even their own reporters long ago exercised the judgment that Mr. Wise lacks.