CIA Sues Former Agent for Breach of Contract

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on October 20, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Contract law can be dry and boring. There, I said it. The endless pages of words written out in legalese are dizzying, even to a lawyer. But when the CIA sues a former agent for breach of contract there is something a little more glamorous about the suit. Twenty year veteran of the CIA, "Ishmael Jones" (the publishing author's pseudonym) is part of a civil suit relating to his book, "The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture."

The Washington Times reports that the suit is centered around the fact that Jones published the book without allowing the CIA censors to remove important and confidential portions before hitting the press -- essentially accusing Jones of breaking his secrecy agreement with the CIA. A pre-publication review of any books or other material is a clause in CIA contracts designed to allow the agency to protect the intelligence sources, methods, and activities of the organization. The Post describes the books as, "a detailed account of his career inside the CIA's clandestine service and his work as a "nonofficial" cover operative in the Middle East and Europe." Jones makes some bold accusations against the CIA, mainly questioning the effectiveness of the program and asserts violations of the CIA's founding charter.

The Times quotes Ishmael Jones on the suit: "The book contains no classified information and I do not profit from it. CIA censors attack this book because it exposes the CIA as a place to get rich with billions of taxpayer dollars wasted or stolen in espionage programs that produce nothing." This is not the CIA's first breach of contract rodeo. The Associated Press adds that the CIA destroyed copies of a book written by a former Army Intelligence Officer arising out of similar violations earlier this year.

In the case of the current suit, the CIA is seeking an injunction against further violations of Jones' lifetime confidentiality obligations to the CIA, as well as recovery of any proceeds Jones receives as a result of the unauthorized publication. Although the parties are not the typical breach of contract plaintiffs and defendants, the analysis is essentially the same -- whether or not Jones breach the secrecy agreement clause. To determine this, courts will look at the clause and the assertions in the book as a whole. The caveat in the suit is that there are special interests when dealing with national security. Let's hope it's a quick read.

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