WASHINGTON -- The CIA is squelching publication of a new book detailing events leading up to Osama bin Laden's escape from his Tora Bora mountain stronghold during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, says a former CIA officer who led much of the fighting.
In a story he says he resigned from the agency to tell, Gary Berntsen recounts the attacks he coordinated at the peak of the fighting in eastern Afghanistan in late 2001, including how US commanders knew bin Laden was in the rugged mountains near the Pakistani border and the Al Qaeda leader's much-discussed getaway.
Berntsen says in a federal court lawsuit that the CIA is over- classifying his manuscript and has repeatedly missed deadlines written into its own regulations to review his book. His lawyer, Roy Krieger, said he delivered papers to the US District Court in Washington after hours Wednesday.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigiliano said Berntsen's manuscript is subject to the same pre-publication review as that of all former employees.
''There, the guideline is that it contain no classified information," he said. ''In this case, the process is moving forward."
During the 2004 election, President Bush and other senior administration officials repeatedly said commanders did not know whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora when US and allied Afghan forces attacked there in 2001.
They rejected allegations by Senator John F. Kerry, then the Democratic presidential nominee, that the United States had missed an opportunity to capture or kill bin Laden because they had ''outsourced" the fighting to Afghan warlords.
''When I watched the presidential debates, it was clear to me . . . the debate and discussions on Tora Bora were -- from both sides -- completely incorrect," said Berntsen, who will not provide details until the agency finishes declassifying his book. ''It did not represent the reality of what happened on the ground."
Berntsen, 48, retired in June.