NEW YORK—Last night, the New York Times reported that former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming memoir included information that could undercut key elements of the president’s impeachment defense and was being held up in prepublication review. Prepublication review is a far-reaching system of censorship prohibiting millions of former intelligence-agency employees and military personnel from writing or speaking about topics related to their government service without first obtaining government approval.

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

“John Bolton’s book is of pressing public concern, and yet whether it ever sees the light of day will be decided by the administration it implicates. This system gives the government wide leeway to censor speech that is critical for the public to hear. It would be egregious for the administration to suppress Bolton’s book to shield itself from damaging revelations, but the system could be used to do just that. This possibility illustrates exactly why the system should be replaced.”

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. More information about this lawsuit, Edgar v. Maguire, 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, Knight First Amendment Institute, [email protected], 646-745-8510