EXCLUSIVE: White House Forbids Publication Of Op-Ed On Iran By Former Bush Official

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"EXCLUSIVE: White House Forbids Publication Of Op-Ed On Iran By Former Bush Official"

Middle East analyst Flynt Leverett, who served under President Bush on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the New America Foundation, revealed today that the White House has been blocking the publication of an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times. The column is critical of the administration’s refusal to engage Iran.

Leverett’s op-ed has already been cleared by the CIA, where he was a senior analyst. Leverett explained, “I’ve been doing this for three and a half years since leaving government, and I’ve never had to go to the White House to get clearance for something that I was publishing as long as the CIA said, ‘Yeah, you’re not putting classified information.’”

According to Leverett the op-ed was “all based on stuff that Secretary Powell, Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary Armitage have talked about publicly. It’s been extensively reported in the media.” Leverett says the incident shows “just how low people like Elliot Abrams at the NSC [National Security Council] will stoop to try and limit the dissemination of arguments critical of the administration’s policy.”

Listen to Leverett’s remarks at a panel today at the Center for American Progress:

Transcript:

Thanks. I think I was able to put out some of my basic ideas on how we need to be engaging Iran diplomatically. They’re, you know, expounded on in greater length on paper. I wanted to say something briefly about the administration, and where it is.

I have been extremely pessimistic that this administration is inclined or capable of genuinely rethinking its approach to Iran in the way that we need it to at this point, and I’ve had an unfortunate experience this week that has only confirmed that for me. As I do with all of my publications, the Century Foundation paper, I showed to the CIA, for whom I used to work, to verify that I was not revealing classified information. They did so, as they have with 30 other things that I’ve published since leaving government. Didn’t ask to change a word.

I prepared an op-ed for the New York Times off of this paper, which is ready to go, ready for publication. The CIA says that as far as they’re concerned, there’s not any classified information in it. But the White House has intervened, claiming that there is classified information in the op-ed, even though it’s already been cleared. It’s all published. It’s all based on stuff that Secretary Powell, Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary Armitage have talked about publicly. It’s been extensively reported in the media. But the White House is saying I can’t publish an op-ed in the New York Times that lays out the argument. I’ve been doing this for three and a half years since leaving government, and I’ve never had to go to the White House to get clearance for something that I was publishing as long as the CIA said, ‘Yeah, you’re not putting classified information.’

Why this week — after the Baker study group, when pressure is on them to rethink their position on Iran — why do they not want this op-ed, based on my experiences in government, my experience dealing with Iran, with Iranian officials, after I left government? Why do they not want this op-ed going in the New York Times this week? I think it says something, and I think it says something about just how low people like Elliot Abrams at the NSC [National Security Council] will stoop to try and limit the dissemination of arguments critical of the administration’s policy.

UPDATE: For more on Leverett’s perspective on Iran, read a paper he wrote for The Century Foundation earlier this month.

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