Ex-CIA agent sues over book detailing Tora Bora

Thu Jul 28, 7:00 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former
CIA agent who played a prominent role in the war in
Afghanistan is suing the spy agency over a new book which promises to show that
Osama bin Laden was at Tora Bora during the 2001 U.S.-led attack on the al Qaeda stronghold but managed to escape.

Gary Berntsen, who led a CIA paramilitary team code-named "Jawbreaker" during the Tora Bora attack, said in a federal lawsuit this week that the CIA is effectively denying his right to publish by allowing a pre-publication review of the 330-page manuscript to drag on for months.

Berntsen asserts that a CIA review board, charged with preventing classified information from appearing in published manuscripts, has been mulling over the book since mid-May. The delay has forced him to miss several publishing deadlines.

But a CIA spokesman said the book is being treated no differently than any other manuscript submitted by a former operative.

Among the book's more controversial assertions is that bin Laden was at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan during a U.S.-led assault in 2001 and managed to escape capture.

The question of the al Qaeda leader's whereabouts played prominently in last year's presidential race, when Democrat
John Kerry accused
President Bush of making a mistake by not sending U.S. troops into the mountains to capture the al Qaeda leader.

Bush maintained that U.S. forces are not sure bin Laden was at Tora Bora. His contention is backed by the former commander of U.S. forces in
Iraq and Afghanistan, Tommy Franks, who actively campaigned for the president's reelection.

"Our client explains how we knew bin Laden was in Tora Bora at the outset of the attack, and essentially what happened and how he got away," said Berntsen's attorney Roy Krieger.

"A lot of people say we don't know for sure (bin Laden) was there, but our client explains how we did know for sure he was there," Krieger added.

Krieger suggested Berntsen's account of the Tora Bora attack could now be in the sights of CIA censors.

The spy agency has not yet said what changes, if any, it wants in the manuscript.

But in court documents filed with U.S. district court in Washington, Berntsen said he believes the CIA's clandestine division wants to redact 30 pages of the book. The book is scheduled to be published by Random House in October under the title, "Jawbreaker."

A redaction that size could be large enough to kill publication, Krieger said.