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 http://www.peterlance.com. 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