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Publishers Support-Valerie Plame-in CIA Lawsuit

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February 7 – February 14, 2008 Edition Publishers Support
Valerie Plame
in CIA Lawsuit

Washington, DC, 2/6/2008–The Association of American Publishers (AAP), joined by 11 groups representing a wide spectrum of media and free-speech interests, is urging a federal appeals court to reverse a ruling which forbids “outed” former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson from mentioning the dates of her CIA employment in her recently published memoir. The government’s redactions were made despite the fact that Ms. Wilson had received an unclassified letter from a CIA benefits official clearly spelling out the dates of her employment and that this letter was introduced at House hearings, was published in the Congressional Record, and is widely available on the Internet.

Last May, with publication of her memoir just months away, Wilson and her publisher Simon & Schuster sought a ruling from a federal district court in New York that the government was imposing an unlawful prior restraint in demanding that she remove from the book all mention of the dates of her CIA employment prior to 2002. The government filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, and in August the court granted the government’s motion, finding that the information had been properly classified by the CIA, had never been declassified, and was not “officially acknowledged” by the agency. The book, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, was published in October with the redactions clearly shown, accompanied by a note from the publisher explaining what had been done and why. The book also contained an afterword by journalist Laura Rozen providing the historical context that Ms. Wilson was unable to include herself.

The amicus brief, filed February 5 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, points out that as a result of the district court decision, “any member of the public can access and freely disseminate the pre-2002 dates of Wilson’s CIA employment, but Wilson herself cannot,” a result that the brief calls “perverse.” While not taking issue with the high level of deference ordinarily given to CIA classification decisions by the courts, the brief asserts that “the circumstances presented here—Wilson is seeking to publish under her own name autobiographical information that is readily accessible to the public—demand searching judicial scrutiny of [the government’s] justifications,” particularly in view of the strong constitutional presumption against prior restraints. The brief points out the irony that the case “involves the government’s efforts to censor purportedly classified public-domain information from a book that describes the wrongful disclosure to the media of classified information by senior government officials.”

Among the groups who joined AAP in filing the brief are the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA-affiliated Freedom to Read Foundation, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Radio-Television News Directors Association, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The brief, which can be found online at: http://www.publishers.org/main/PressCenter/documents/07-4244-cvWilsonvMcConnellAmicusCuriaeBrief.pdf was written by AAP’s Freedom to Read counsel Bruce Rich and Jonathan Bloom of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry. AAP’s approximately 300 members include most of the major commercial book publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies. AAP members publish hardcover and paperback books in every field, educational materials for the elementary, secondary, post-secondary and professional markets, scholarly journals, computer software and electronic products and services. The Association represents an industry whose very existence depends upon the free exercise of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.