Groups Ask Senators to End Hold-Up of Former NCIS Agent's Book on Torture

August 03, 2017

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the American Civil Liberties Union yesterday sent a letter to six senators asking them to intervene in a stalled Department of Defense review that is blocking publication of a former military investigator’s book on U.S. government torture. Mark Fallon, a 27-year veteran of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), submitted his manuscript, “Unjustifiable Means,” to the Defense Department for review seven months ago, but has been refused basic information about its status.

“The government’s process for reviewing manuscripts by former employees must not become a pretext for suppressing dissent,” said Alex Abdo, a senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute. “Mark’s insider perspective of U.S. torture is a unique one that Americans have a right to hear.”

Fallon served in the NCIS when torture was authorized by government officials at the highest levels, and his manuscript details the costs of these policies to American interests and values. The First Amendment requires that any review of manuscripts by former government employees be prompt. Yet Fallon has not been informed why his manuscript – which relies heavily on information that’s not only unclassified but already public – is stuck in limbo or when the Defense Department will complete its overdue review.

In the letter, the Knight Institute and the ACLU note that books defending American torture policies do not appear to have faced similar delays:

“It is hard to escape the inference that the extended delay in reviewing Mr. Fallon’s book is related to his criticisms of the torture policies. We note that the Defense Department and CIA have authorized (or not stood in the way of) the publication of many books defending those policies.”

At present, other government officials are currently engaged in suppressing the full version of the Senate’s Torture Report. The letter asks six senators who have been outspoken critics of harsh interrogation to intervene to ensure that the pre-publication review process for books by former staff are not misused to suppress dissent on torture.

“The torture architects and advocates have controlled the public narrative with the myth that the unlawful prisoner torture program was safe, necessary, and effective — even while official investigations repeatedly prove that is false,” said Fallon. “It's time to hear from, and about, the government officials that opposed those inhumane practices, acted with the courage of their convictions, and tried to prevent the adoption of torture as a national policy. ‘Unjustifiable Means’ needs to be added to the public debate on this issue, before it's too late.”

About the Knight Institute

The Knight First Amendment Institute is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization established by Columbia University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to defend the freedoms of speech and press in the digital age through strategic litigation, research, and public education.

About the ACLU

The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, with a presence in all 50 states and more than 1.5 million members. For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been at the forefront of virtually every major battle for civil liberties and equal justice in the United State, and has participated in more cases at the Supreme Court than any other non-governmental organization.