SCOOP: Former CIA Officer Has Not Had Upcoming Book Cleared By CIA, Sources Say

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SCOOP: Former CIA Officer Has Not Had Upcoming Book Cleared By CIA, Sources Say

Former CIA Case Officer Amaryllis Fox has a book about her time in the intelligence agency coming out this October, but according to two sources, it has not officially been cleared for publication yet by the CIA. 

Even though she hasn’t received clearance yet, according to the sources, review copies of the book “Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA,” from the august publishing house Knopf, have gone out to at least one news publication and myself, which could mean that Fox violated federal law. 

And an excerpt from Fox’s book, which contains information related to the CIA and intelligence activities (though it’s unclear if any of it is classified), was published in Vogue last month.

According to two sources, Fox did submit her manuscript to the CIA for clearance but it has not yet been cleared for publication.

When an individual joins the CIA, they sign a lifetime agreement that confirms they need to have any materials about the agency and intelligence matters cleared first by the CIA's Publications Review Board before sharing that information with the public. The board reviews the written materials and redacts any information that is classified or may cause harm to U.S. national security. Even if a former CIA official believes what they have written does not contain classified information, they still must submit it to the review board for clearance. Former CIA officials will often go back and forth with the review board, negotiating redactions, before they gain final clearance for publication. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for Knopf said, “Our understanding is that Amaryllis has coordinated with the PRB throughout the process of writing her book, from the proposal through the final manuscript.” 

I have reached out to the CIA for comment but have not heard back yet. 

With respect to the excerpt of Fox’s book published in Vogue, a source familiar with the matter says a Vogue fact-checker was in touch with the review board, but the source did not know if the board had cleared the excerpt for publication. It’s unusual for anyone but a former CIA official (or their attorney) to be in contact with the board. In fact, a well-placed source says the board will often decline to interact with outsiders.  I’ve reached out to a spokesperson for Vogue’s parent company, Condé Nast for comment.

The review board process is notoriously difficult, and former CIA officials like Nada Bakos, who served as an analyst and targeting officer for a decade, have had to sue the agency to get their books cleared for publication. But the law is clear: Until a former CIA official has clearance, which comes in the form of an official letter, they may not share any information with outsiders.  

In fact, the CIA says a former official shouldn’t even share a manuscript with ghostwriters or a publisher before they get clearance from the review board: 

“Publishing is more than having a printing house bind copies of a book. It means communicating by any means (including orally or electronically), information regardless of form to any person or entity other than the CIA’s PRB or a US Government official authorized by the CIA to receive such information for prepublication review. This encompasses materials including but not limited to: book reviews, Op-ed pieces, scholarly papers, scripts, screenplays, blogs, speeches, and other materials. Thus, material covered by a CIA Secrecy Agreement requiring prepublication review must be submitted and approved prior to discussing the material with or showing it to individuals such as a publisher, co-author, agent, editor, ghost-writer, personal representative, family member, or assistant.”

Further complicating matters, Fox sold the rights to her book and her life to Media Res, the production company run by producer Michael Ellenberg. Media Res sold the project as a drama series to Apple after a bidding war, and actress Brie Larson is set to star in and produce the series. 

It’s unclear if Media Res, Apple or Larson have actually received a copy of the book, although given that review copies have gone out to reporters, it’s likely they have. I have contacted representatives for Media Res, Apple and Larson and will update this story if they offer comment. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Fox will produce and provide additional background information for the series.” If Fox’s background information is related to national security matters, she would also need to have that cleared with the CIA review board before sharing it with producers, according to a source familiar with review board procedures. It’s unclear if Fox has submitted or shared any background information to producers.

The penalties for failing to gain clearance of a book pre-publication are quite severe. In 2016, former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, who was a part of the raid that led to Osama bin Laden’s death, forfeited more than $6 million in income from his book “No Easy Day” and related speeches. Unlike Fox, Bissonnette never even submitted his book for review to the US Department of Defense.

Bissonnette’s forfeiture ended years of federal criminal and civil investigations.