Attempted Censorship by U.S. Attorney

Attempted Censorship by U.S. Attorney — A Book to Watch!

By Ann Sparanese

On June 16, the paperback edition of Triple Cross: How Bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets and the FBI by Peter Lance will be released by HarperCollins. This is happening despite a prominent U.S. Attorney’s best efforts to stop it.

Since this book was first published in hardcover in 2006, Patrick Fitzgerald, US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago (the same Patrick Fitzgerald of the Valerie Plame investigation) has repeatedly attempted to have the publisher bury the book, and to prevent publication of the paperback edition. Lance, who is a five-time Emmy-winning investigative reporter with other books on terrorism under his belt, spent four years compiling “evidence that the best and the brightest in the two bin Laden offices of origin…had committed multiple acts of negligence in the 12 years leading up to 9/11 in their failure to stop the al Qaeda cell, trained by Ali Mohamed.”

U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald sent three threatening letters to the publisher charging libel, and held up the publication of the paperback edition for 18 months. [Just yesterday Fitzgerald sent an additional letter to HarperCollins, threatening to sue; things are heating up.] Initially, HarperCollins did not react to the threats, calling the book “an important work of investigative journalism,” but when Fitzgerald continued to protest, using U.S. Attorney Chicago letterhead, a U.S. Attorney Chicago fax machine on one occasion [Correction via Sparanese 6/5/09] the publisher decided to re-vet the entire book, which took a year. When finished, only inconsequential sentences were rewritten or corrected, leaving the essential arguments, evidence and documentation completely intact. This is an instance of a publisher standing up to one of the most powerful government officials in the U.S., but it is also an example of the chilling effect of censorship attempts, because for over a year Lance could do no other work than re-vetting every sentence of his book. Not a great situation for any author but perhaps the most responsible action by HCP in this case because now the situation is clear: though Fitzgerald’s name no longer appears in the title, Lance’s book remains intact and contains some new material, including a section on Fitzgerald’s attempts to kill the book.

I’ve been in communication with this author, and I really believe his is a book and an issue to watch. Until this new edition of Triple Cross hits the stands on June 16, it is still in jeopardy. The first edition of Triple Cross received no major reviews, and most likely you do not have a copy in your library. I have a feeling the publisher does not intend to make a big splash of it! Please read about it on Lance’s website and order it to make sure your library users have access to this information: ISBN 978-0-06-118941-8.

Whether or not you are totally convinced by the arguments in this book (meticulously researched material, definitely NOT conspiracy theories) what is important is that Triple Cross holds high level government officials accountable for negligence in their dealings with known terrorist operatives during the period leading up to the 9/11 attacks. It is unacceptable that this particular high-level government official has acted so aggressively to stop a book because it is critical of him – this must be the case, since nothing libelous was written. If anything, we need more genuine investigative journalism and discussion of this kind.

And there is something else: For me, as someone who fought, along with many of you in ALA and other organizations, against the USA PATRIOT Act, illegal surveillance, torture policies, and other violations of civil liberties that have been foisted upon us in the name of the “War on Terror,” Triple Cross is important because it makes a clear and compelling case that official negligence, misplaced priorities, turf wars, and arrogance – not lack of the appropriate laws and methods to fight terrorism – contributed greatly to the debacles that have since befallen the American and, indeed, the people of the world. And not one person high in the chain of command has been held accountable for any of it! So (1) tell HarperCollins you appreciate them standing behind this book and (2) please purchase it for your library. Don’t let it be buried. Let it lead to more public examination and discussion of ongoing U.S. policies and priorities.

Peter Lance will be holding a press conference to detail the attempted book-banning on June 16th in the John Peter Zenger Room of The National Press Club. You can learn more about Triple Cross and get updates on Lance’s anti-censorship campaign at If you want more information about how Lance’s critical coverage of Fitzgerald might have led to Fitzgerald’s attempts to bury the book, you can read his attached article, “The Chilling Effect.”

Ann Sparanese, MLS
Head, Adult & YA Services
Englewood Public Library
Englewood, NJ

20 comments on “Attempted Censorship by U.S. Attorney

  1. Factual nit to pick. You state that Mr. Fitzgerald issued threatening protest letters ” using U.S. Attorney Chicago letterhead,”—a possible violation of USDOJ policy, yet the letters you link to all have a return address to post office box and are clearly written in a personal capacity. It would be unfortunate for your spirited defense of Mr. Lance’s work to itself contain actionable statements of defamation.

    I see no evidence in your supporting links of the misuse of office your article accuses Mr. Fitzgerald of.

    Further, I have read the first version of Mr. Lance’s book and aside from displaying an accute paranoia, it seems to show a complete lack of understanding of the basics of grand jury procedure and grand jury secrecy or the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

    Mr. Lance ascribes all manner of dark intention to acts that merely reflect compliance with proper grand jury practice and pretty plain vanilla prosecution standards.

    There was a point in the book where it was so over the top that I thought maybe it was meant to be a satire of some kind–in which case the re-release would benefit from the addition of zombies, look what zombies did for Pride and Prejudice.

    I realize from the letters, that Fitzgerald seems to take the defamtory statements in the book very seriously. I find them to be so obviously false and beyond serious consideration as to border on hilarity.

  2. Just to be clear – if you’re addressing Ann Sparanese, address her in the third person. She didn’t post her piece here, but I did as the owner of the blog. I can’t speak for her.

  3. Sorry, Rory, it was not clear from the format that Ms. Sparanese was not affiliatied with this blog.

    However, by making a conscious editorial choice to post it, rather than being a passive host, you do take responisbility for content under the Electronic Comminications Decency Act.

    Nothing said herein should be construed as legal advise and you should consult your own attorney.

  4. Wow.

    Well, I guess I can only say that I fully accept legal responsibility for publishing what Ann wrote but that is not the same thing as sharing her position in a debate. Publishers don’t have to agree with what they publish to take legal responsibility for it as publishers.

    If you want to know what I think, to me it sounds like an interesting issue. I don’t know if Peter Lance is right or wrong but I tend to think he has a right to be heard and have his views scrutinized by the public.

  5. And if you really want to make a legal case out of it, I think it is clear from the format that Ann is not affiliated with the blog. You just didn’t examine the blog closely before making that assumption.

  6. Ms. Kouril… You seem to be implying that Ann Sparanese might be guilty of libel or otherwise vulnerable in a lawsuit because of the short piece that appears here, and that by publishing her post I might be vulnerable in a lawsuit also. Is this really what you intend to suggest?

  7. I think it is clear from the format that Ann is not affiliated with the blog. You just didn’t examine the blog closely before making that assumption.

    I’m sorry, and I’m not trying to be argumentative, but what about the format would alert me that the author was not affilaited with this blogsite? there is no legen that says “cross posted from X” or “orginally posted on X” or anactual disclaimer saying that she was unaffliated.

    I genuinely don’t know what would have tipped me off that the author was unaffiliated

  8. At the bottom of the post it says that I am the person who posted it. Also, the “About” page of the blog states that it is my blog, and not a group blog.

  9. Ann distributed her piece by email. I believe my blog is the first place where it was posted to a website.

    I am stunned by the fact that it was cross-posted to Free Republic and surprised to be confronted with legal language. I was not expecting this type of a response. I don’t personally have an opinion about the situation, and I believe that Ann could be swayed by further information as well.

  10. If anybody wonders why HarperCollins and I spent months re-vetting TRIPLE CROSS after Patrick Fitzgerald sent multiple letters threatening to sue for libel, Cynthia Kouril’s attacks on Ann Sparanese’s defense of my right to publish the book are proof positive of how The Feds — and ex Feds — try and chill those who have the audacity to criticize them.

    On first blush Ms. Kouril’s comments attacking my book might appear to have some credibility.

    But one needs to consider the source. She’s a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District, the very Federal prosecutor’s office were Patrick Fitzgerald was head of the Organized Crime and Terrorism Unit.

    The SDNY is the focus much of my criticism in TRIPLE CROSS. This is one of the two “bin laden offices of origin” which dropped the ball so many times on the road to 9/11.

    Fitzgerald also directed Squad I-49 in the FBI New York Office (NYO) and, as I report, along with other SDNY and FBI officials was repeatedly outflanked by FBI master spy Ali Mohamed. To download the 32 page illustrated timeline from the hardcover edition of TRIPLE CROSS go to: and click on the TIMELINE in the upper right hand corner of the home page.

    Cynthia Kouril blogs for Not only is she a Southern District alumna but so is her law partner (in private practice) Robert L. Folks.

    Here’s a link to her bio page:
    The text follows:

    “Cynthia Kouril is a former Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York under several different U.S. Attorneys…”

    The Feds — current and former — are notorious for sticking together to defend themselves and they tend to be extremely thin skinned when it comes to the kind criticism documented in TRIPLE CROSS.

    Case in point: Andrew C. McCarthy: Fitzgerald’s co-prosecutor in the 1995 “Day of Terror” trial vs. The blind Sheikh. On the night that TRIPLE CROSS first appeared in hardcover November 21st, 2006 McCarthy issued a statement attacking the book and me when I was a guest on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

    Here’s a video link to broadcast which you should find amusing.

    The guest host that night was an ex-conservative congressman from Ohio named John Kasich. Even though the 604 page book, meticulously researched with 1,450+ end notes and 32 pages of documentary appendices had only been in bookstores a few hours McCarthy issued the following attack which Kasich and Fox News illustrated in large full screen graphics:

    “This (the book) is scurrilously presented. Everything he (Lance) said we were hiding about Ali Mohamed was presented in open court. It is presented in a widely disingenuous way, relying on convicted terrorists and convicted murderers as sources.”

    Cynthia Kouril is another SDNY crony from this same “shoot from the hip” school calling TRIPLE CROSS “so over the top that I thought maybe it was meant to be a satire of some kind.”

    So with respect to her criticism above, I ask you to take it from the source. Clearly Fitzgerald’s friends are starting to circle the wagons.

    For more on TRIPLE CROSS please visit my website.

    You can download a pdf of all four of Fitzgerald’s threat letters and HarperCollins initial response, rejecting his libel claim at:

    As to Ms. Kouril’s clear threats to both Ann Sparanese and Rory Litwin who maintains this marvelous blog, I ask you to consider whether or not, if my findings in TRIPLE CROSS are, as she alleges “beyond serious consideration as to border on hilarity” why would she go to the lengths she did to effectively threaten each of them with defamation?

    As the Bard wrote, “Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.”

  11. In between those who feel the 9/11 Commission Report is the last word and those supporting conspiracy theories is a vast number of Americans who never bought the Commission’s conclusion: that 9/ll resulted from a failure of imagination.

    If you didn’t buy it either, you have a real source for answers in an investigative reporter as meticulous as Peter Lance. Never relenting, Lance has pursued the historical chain of people and events, the flashing signals visible at the time but ignored, neglected or outright repressed, until with this his third book on 9/11, TRIPLE CROSS, he brings out of the shadows a major player who is still somewhere in an American prison. It is cause for wonder that this man, whom Patrick Fitzgerald said “should not be allowed out on the streets,” is never mentioned by him as one among the gallery of those who brought such terror to America.

    But then Fitzgerald has been trying to suppress Lance’s work that brought Ali Mohamed to light. All of a sudden, it’s the First Amendment be damned. The district attorney, who prosecuted the “”Scooter” Libby case, trying to find out who exposed CIA agent Valerie Plaime as punishment for her husband, Amb. Joseph Wilson’s exercise of his free speech rights, is squirming because of the case Lance has made re his role regarding Ali Mohamed.

    TRIPLE CROSS cannot be consigned to books dealing in hindsight or conspiracy. It is the result of starting from the beginning, based on interviews with FBI agents, police, firemen, military officers, news reports, FBI documents, all buttressed by extensive travel and correspondence, and developing a timeline that begins, not in 1996 or 1998, but 1989.

  12. Mr. Lance, you comment #10 above, just made my point about the paranoia.

    There is no conspiracy amoung ex-feds. Heck, Bob’s never even met Fitzgerald or Mcarthy and probably could not pick McCarthy out of line up if his life depended on it. It’s probably been 10 or 15 years since I last saw or spoke to McCarthy. That’s some great conspiracy there, yessereee.

    You really never hesitiate to jump to wild conclusions do you? [chuckling]

    Really, zombies. You ought to add Zombies. Lots of Zombies. If zombies could bring so much renewed interest to a great classic like Pride and Prejudice, think of what they could do to improve that thing you wrote.

    How about instead of some crazy conspiracy amoung ex-feds, my opinion of your publication might have to do with my affinity for verifiable facts over paranoid fantasy?

    Like the fact that the letters to Harper Collins were not written on US Attorney’s stationary. A fact that could be verified by looking at the letters themselves. See how that works?

    On another note:

    I see that some responsible person has corrected the original post to reflect that the letters were not, in fact, sent on US Attorney’s stationary. Well done.

  13. Listening to Lance being interviewed by George Knapp
    tonight, I was impressed by his fluidity
    with the material from memory.

    He’s obviously a very sharp guy. One would hope that
    the people in our intelligence community and defense
    people are equally sharp.

    I’m not willing to judge the intelligence or defense
    people based on what Lance said before reading his

    However, anyone who has ever had to juggle elements
    of uncertain meanings in the analysis phase
    or guessing at end-points from
    inferred strategic intents . . . I’d guess that they’d
    know there’s a huge difference between hind-sight
    and ability to delegate action based on fuzzy evidence.

    From what I gather from what Lance said tonight: there
    was nothing fuzzy about it.

    Well, maybe Lance should drop his dalliance with journalism
    and get to work in the intelligence community.

    I guess I’ll find out after reading the book.

    I wanted to start out here, though, by writing
    ‘ha ha ha ha, I don’t know what’s funnier: that a blogger
    is being sucked up into this hysteria about a couple
    twice removed involved in libel and slander, or that
    the book is being trashed by people who haven’t read it

    So to enfold whoever reads this even deeper into the
    comedy of that, I wrote what I wrote before I wrote what
    I didn’t write at the beginning, but instead, at the

    Now you laugh.

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