NEW YORK—As expected, the White House filed a lawsuit in federal court today seeking an injunction to block the publication next week of a memoir by former National Security Advisor John Bolton. The book, which reportedly reflects on Bolton’s time in the Trump administration, had been scheduled for publication earlier this year, but the administration has held it up in prepublication review for months. News reports indicate that during this time, Bolton worked with the National Security Council to address any concerns about the manuscript in order to ready the book for publication on June 23.

The following response can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“The government’s complaint is strategically ambiguous about what relief it’s seeking, and against whom. But any effort to enjoin the publication of a book raises serious First Amendment concerns, and those concerns are heightened here because there are credible reports that the White House's interest is not in protecting national security but in suppressing criticism of the president.”

The following response can be attributed to Alex Abdo, Litigation Director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“The lesson here is that the prepublication review system is broken and susceptible to abuse. It makes no sense to give executive branch officials such broad power to censor books that are critical of executive branch officials. The courts should strike down the system and require Congress to fix it.”

On April 2, 2019, the Knight Institute and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of five former public servants challenging the government’s prepublication review system. The plaintiffs argue that the system violates the First and Fifth Amendments. On April 16, 2020, granting the government’s motion to dismiss the case, a district court held that the plaintiffs had standing to pursue the challenge but that the prepublication review system is constitutional. Plaintiffs have appealed. More information about this lawsuit, Edgar v. Ratcliffe, is available here

An overview of the key features of the prepublication review regimes across 17 intelligence agencies can be found here.

For more information, contact: Lorraine Kenny, Communications Director, [email protected]