NEW YORK — A federal judge today rejected the Trump administration’s request for an injunction to block the publication of a memoir by former National Security Advisor John Bolton. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the ACLU, and the ACLU of DC yesterday filed an amicus brief in the case, urging the court to refuse to issue an injunction. The book, which underwent a lengthy government review process and reflects on Bolton’s time in the Trump administration, has already been excerpted in major newspapers and hundreds of thousands of copies have been distributed around the world in anticipation of a June 23 release.

“The court was of course right to reject the government’s request for a prior restraint, especially because the injunction the government sought here was broader than the one the Supreme Court rejected in the Pentagon Papers case,” said Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “In other respects, though, the ruling is a troubling reaffirmation of broad government power to censor in the name of national security. The prepublication review system puts far too much power in the hands of government censors, and reform of this dysfunctional system is long overdue.”

A copy of yesterday’s brief can be found here.

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, [email protected]