If you have held a government issued security clearance, you most certainly know about ‘pre-pub review.’ Pre-publication review is the process to determine that information proposed for public release contains no protected information and is consistent with the established Department of Defense and Intelligence Community policies. Such reviews are conducted by a panel of officials from the agency where a security clearance holder holds or held their clearance.
Pre-publication is a requirement – Not a Suggestion
The process is required for all current or former security clearance holders who wish to publish material in any format that addresses their experience while working with the agency, what they observed, and anything else tied to their official duties that could expose government secrets. Cleared workers contractually agree to this process in the paperwork signed both at the time of indoctrination into classified access and the time of out-processing.
While pre-publication review happens daily, cases like John Bolton only grab headlines every so often. Bolton’s book The Room Where It Happened is a best seller, but the author’s legal fight against the government is not over.
Director of National Security Counselors Weighs In
In early June, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Bolton, claiming he did not complete the prepublication review process. ClearanceJobs sat down with Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, a Washington, D.C. area non-profit public interest law firm that specializes in national security and privacy law.
Classified Information in the Public Domain
The question McClanahan has is not what the government will do to Bolton for writing the book, but what the government could do to DoD employees and contractors who read it. An example is in a 2013 Defense Department memo states: “DoD employees or contractors who seek out classified information in the public domain, acknowledge its accuracy or existence, or proliferate the information in any way will be subject to sanctions.” All agencies have a comparable policy, so this pertains to any employees or contractors in the national security or foreign affairs areas.
McClanahan hopes this lawsuit will contribute to efforts to reform the publication review apparatus.