A lawsuit alleges that the CIA maintains unconstitutional powers to censor books by former intelligence officers (SAUL LOEB)

Washington (AFP) – The US Central Intelligence Agency was sued Tuesday for maintaining an “arbitrary” right to censor the writings of former intelligence agents, which is delaying books under the claim of protecting national security.

Five former intelligence officials, including a cybersecurity expert and a former Marine writing about sexual violence in the military, filed the suit against the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Security, the Defense Department and the National Security Agency, arguing that the right the claim to “pre-publication review” of works by ex-employees is a violation of free speech rights under the constitution.

The lawsuit said that millions of former intelligence employees and military personnel are exposed to possible sanction “if they write or speak about their government service without first obtaining the government’s approval.”

Although the agencies have legitimate concerns about possibly revealing secrets, the suit said, the rule is applied excessively to people without access to sensitive information, policies are vague and overly broad, manuscripts are held for months, and decisions go unexplained.

Meanwhile, it said “favored officials are sometimes afforded special treatment, with their manuscripts fast-tracked and reviewed more sympathetically.”

The suit said that the problem has always existed, and was challenged by one ex-CIA officer in the 1970s. The Supreme Court dismissed his suit.

However, it notes, today 17 agencies maintain the policy and the number of works forced to undergo review has soared, some 3,400 manuscripts and another 5,000 other works for the CIA alone in 2015.

The lawsuit said the prepublication review policy effectively prevents many potential authors from writing, becoming an effective censorship mechanism.

And for other, including Mark Fallon, who is one of the five filing the suit, it has been more of a direct censorship mechanism.

The former Navy criminal investigator wrote a book critical of the torture policies of the George W. Bush administration, and the book was held by reviewers for eight months.

When returned, it had 113 redactions which the suit claims were often arbitrary and yet reduced the impact of the book.

Disclaimer: Validity of the above story is for 7 Days from original date of publishing. Source: AFP.