A Call to Former Intelligence Community Employees Who Are Subject to a Prepublication Review Requirement

Millions of former public servants who once had access to classified information—and many who didn’t—are subject to a requirement of prepublication review. They are generally prohibited from publishing manuscripts that touch on their experience in government without first submitting them to the government for approval. The requirement to submit one’s manuscript for advance review is a prior restraint. It is an especially problematic one because, as Jack Goldsmith and Oona Hathaway have observed, the prepublication review system is “racked with pathologies.” Submission requirements are unclear, overbroad, and vary significantly from one agency to the next. Manuscript review often takes weeks or even months. Agencies’ censorial decisions are often arbitrary and motivated by concerns unrelated to national security. Administrative appeals are too-often futile.

In an ongoing effort to better understand how the prepublication review process works (or doesn’t), the Knight Institute and the ACLU have filed multiple lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act seeking records about various agencies’ prepublication review policies and practices. We are also gathering information from former intelligence community employees who have personal experience of the process. We are particularly interested in speaking with those who have first-hand experience of the “pathologies” mentioned above, either through having submitted manuscripts for review or through having reviewed manuscripts submitted by others.

If you have such experience and would be willing to talk with us, please send a short note to ppr@knightcolumbia.org or sptintake@aclu.org and someone from the ACLU or the Knight Institute will reach out to you. 

About the Author(s)

Jameel Jaffer

Inaugural Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Former Deputy Legal Director at the American Civil Liberties Union and Director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, Author of The Drone Memos. Member of the editorial board of Just Security. Follow him on Twitter (@JameelJaffer).

Brett Max Kaufman

Staff Attorney in the ACLU's Center for Democracy Follow him on Twitter (@brettmaxkaufman).