The Feb. 1 news article “Bolton faces potential legal battles in standoff with White House over book” provided much-needed discussion of the arbitrary and capricious nature of the government’s pre-publication review process. Having submitted many book-length manuscripts to the Central Intelligence Agency, I have learned that books from senior officials that praise the CIA get very quick review and approval. Former CIA directors such as Robert Gates and Leon Panetta are never challenged. If you are an agency critic, however, you can wait as long as one year to get approval. Government censors rarely provide an explanation for their redactions, and authors have no system for challenging these decisions. Moreover, the censors are far more concerned with information they find embarrassing to a particular agency rather than concerning themselves with genuine national security secrets. As a result, the public is deprived of relevant information on many national security issues that require discussion and debate. Congressional committees and media outlets are similarly deprived.
Former national security adviser John Bolton is about to learn that the government’s pre-publication review process is little more than a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech rights. Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” which exposes the perfidy of the Trump administration’s orchestrated extortion of the Ukrainian government, is scheduled for release in March 2020. The book is already proving more damaging to Donald Trump than the 448-page Mueller report, and rivals the attention given to the CIA whistleblower’s account of Trump’s efforts to bribe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But there are indications that the government will demand the deletion of significant portions of the manuscript, and will do its best to delay publication as long as possible.
It isn’t enough for the corporate media to praise John Bolton for his timely manuscript that confirms Donald Trump’s explicit linkage between military aid to Ukraine and investigations into his political foe Joe Biden. As a result, the media have made John Bolton a “man of principle,” according to the Washington Post, and a fearless infighter for the “sovereignty of the United States.” Writing in the Post, Kathleen Parker notes that Bolton isn’t motivated by the money he will earn from his book (in the neighborhood of $2 million), but that he is far more interested in “saving his legacy.” Perhaps this is a good time to examine that legacy.
U.S. national media have been lazy in their treatment of our military—pandering to the military itself and using retired general officers with ties to the military-industrial complex as spokesmen. The United States is largely in an arms race with itself, but the media typically ignore bloated defense spending. It is past time to reinforce Martin Luther King’s address to the Riverside Church in 1967 that linked chronic domestic poverty and military adventurism.