The forthcoming book by former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton contains top-secret information and its publication will compromise a National Security Agency electronic spy source, according to the NSA director.
Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, the NSA director, disclosed in court papers that he has reviewed the draft of Mr. Bolton’s tell-all book on the Trump administration and said it contains highly-classified electronic intelligence.
“Compromise of this information could result in the permanent loss of a valuable [signals intelligence] source and cause irreparable damage to the U.S. sigint system,” Gen. Nakasone stated in an affidavit submitted to U.S. District Court in Washington.
Gen. Nakasone did not provide details of the information contained in the book that concerned him but stated that the information is “highly classified and extraordinarily sensitive” and could not be contained in the court filing.
The filing was made public as the Justice Department moved to seek a temporary restraining order that would prevent publication of the book.
The four-star general stated that “significant manpower and monetary investments have been and continue to be made to enable and maintain this capability.”
“Further, exposure or this information could also cause considerable difficulties in U.S. and allied relations with specific nations and other entities,” he stated. “ln particular, I have determined that the unauthorized disclosure of the classified information in the draft manuscript reasonably could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”
The publication of classified NSA information in the book is the latest in a string of security failures by the premier U.S. intelligence service.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden stole an estimated 1.7 highly-classified documents from the agency and in 2013 began distributing many of them to news organizations and anti-secrecy groups.
Another NSA compromise took place in 2016 when a hacker group called Shadow Brokers tried to sell top-secret cyber weapons, including zero-day software flaws used for cyber attacks, that allegedly were taken from the NSA.
At a court hearing yesterday on the motion to block publication of the book, Judge Royce C. Lambert expressed concerns about the book allegedly containing “sensitive compartmented information,” the most secret U.S. information used to protect electronic and human spy operations and foreign policy matters.
During the open hearing, Judge Lambert did not rule on the government’s motion to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent publication of the book, “The Room Where It Happened,” which already has been distributed to several news media outlets in advance of publication.
A closed hearing examining the secret information in the book was set for Friday afternoon.
Charles Cooper, a lawyer for Mr. Bolton, argued at the hearing that publication of the book should not be enjoined because the book already has been distributed to book stores.
The book is set for release Tuesday.
David M. Morrell, deputy attorney general, told the hearing the book should be blocked from release and all copies returned until a full security review and the removal of classified information is carried out.
Mr. Morrell said Mr. Bolton signed several secrecy agreements, including those preventing disclosure of SCI information, that require pre-publication review.
“We seek to enforce the agreement he struck upon becoming national security adviser,” Mr. Morell said.
Mr. Cooper said since the book has already been distributed that “the horse is out of the barn” and therefore publication should not be blocked.
In court filings, Mr. Bolton argued that the effort to stop publication of the book was politically motivated.
Judge Lambert, however, noted Gen. Nakasone’s affidavit. “Four stars have not been shy in standing up to this president,” he said.
The judge also stated that from the documents in the case it appears Mr. Bolton had “walked away” from a White House security review and went ahead with publication of his book without permission.
Justice Department lawyers said the book should be enjoined from publication until all classified information contained in the book is removed, including “sensitive compartmented information,” the most secret level information classified by the government.
“This is a contract matter,” Mr. Morell said. “He agreed to a process before publishing classified information. He voluntarily agreed to that and he’s reneged on that. We seek an order enforcing Mr. Bolton to hold up his end of the bargain.”