Open Letter to President Donald Trump and National Intelligence Director Daniel Coats

By: - December 13, 2018

(Dan Harris retired after more than 31 years of service at the Central Intelligence Agency, conducting and managing intelligence operations across five continents.)

15 November 2018

Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America

Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, United States of America

This open letter is to apprise you of regulations, practices and procedures employed by the Central Intelligence Agency, Publication’s Review Board (PRB) which disproportionately and unfairly affect the welfare of Intelligence Community (IC) veterans. It is within your purview to correct the inconsistency, incompetence and malfeasance in the PRB, and your immediate action is necessary.

Veterans of the IC are legally obliged to obtain PRB review, for classified content, of written products or verbal presentations regarding intelligence issues. These products are often the basis of our veterans’ post-service income and, as such, the PRB is expected to perform their critical role fairly, efficiently, objectively, and professionally. In this role, the PRB continues to fail.

Upon retirement from CIA after more than 30 years of service, and as committed to protecting the national security of the U.S. as ever, I welcomed an objective review of a 283 page spy novel manuscript when I submitted it to the PRB on 27 June 2017. To date, nearly 17 months later, the PRB has provided review of just 37 pages. Of greater concern, the PRB applied standards reserved for documentary, factual, reference material vice works of fiction and, in doing so, redacted a character’s fictional cover and operating location from my novel. In contrast, a colleague’s reference of the same non-official cover and operating locations in his novels were approved by the PRB. (See Jason Matthews’ Red Sparrow Trilogy.)

While the PRB’s inability to conduct a timely review and inconsistencies in classification determinations are alarming, they are coupled with the fact that manuscripts have not been afforded appropriate protections and material has been forwarded by operational review managers to associates and colleagues with no regard for copyright. Further to this recurring malfeasance, the PRB provided written material which states that all board decisions are final, which is in conflict with its actions regarding another former colleague, Michael Morell, who was afforded an audience with the board to argue against redactions to his non-fiction book “The Great War of Our Time.”

The classified-content review process is a critical and under-appreciated function in our IC and the PRB has been inadequately resourced by the current CIA director and her predecessors. Many veterans choose to forego the review process, relying instead on their judgment from decades of experience as original classifying authorities, rather than expose themselves to the arbitrary practices of the PRB. These regulations, practices and procedures of the PRB must be standardized and accountable, to re-establish trust and confidence among our veterans as well as to afford them the respect they have earned.

Gentlemen, it is in your purview as executive oversight of the CIA to ensure the appropriate changes are made to a program which has been mismanaged for decades. We respectfully request your direct involvement in addressing this national security issue.


Daniel S. Harris

(The content of this letter was reviewed by the Publication Review Board.)