To Protect State Secrets, Pentagon Buys and Destroys Book

By Dschabner

Sep 25, 2010 11:12pm

From Luis Martinez:

The Pentagon has purchased and arranged for the destruction of 9,500 copies of a book so it can protect classified information it contains.

Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer's memoir "Operation Dark Heart" had become a headache for the Defense Department which determined after it had gone to print that it contained classified information.  The book recounts the Army Reserve officer's experiences in Afghanistan in 2003 while working for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

An option being explored with the book's publisher was for the Pentagon to purchase the 9,500 copies of the book's first run so they could be destroyed.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. April Cunningham confirms that is what happened earlier this week.

"DoD decided to purchase copies of the first printing because they contained information which could cause damage to national security," she said.

According to Cunningham, "the approximately 9,500 copies of the book were "disposed on Sept. 20.  DoD observed the destruction of the copies."

"DoD is in the process of reimbursing Macmillan Publishers for costs associated with the production of approximately 9,500 copies of the first printing of 'Operation Dark Heart,'" she said.

There is no information as to the costs associated with this effort.

Under an agreement with the publisher, the passages in dispute have been redacted in the book's second printing.  Cunningham said the Pentagon has not purchased copies of the redacted second printing.

Shortly after the New York Times first reported the controversy over the book earlier this month, Defense Department spokesman Col. Dave Lapan confirmed the discussions with Shaffer's publisher.

Lapan said there were discussions with Shaffer, his attorney and his publisher "about how to protect classified information and we haven't made any decisions about what the outcome will be."

It is standard procedure for military and intelligence officials to submit book manuscripts for security reviews so any classified information they might contain is not published.
Lapan said Shaffer had cleared his manuscript with the Army Reserve, "but not with the larger army and with DOD.  So he did not meet the requirements under Department of Defense regulations for the security review." 

The Defense Intelligence Agency was one of the agencies that expressed concerns about some of the information contained in Shaffer's book which details his work for the agency in Afghanistan. 

In its website description for the book, Macmillan says it was contacted by the Pentagon on Aug. 13, "just as St. Martin's Press was readying its initial shipment of this book … to express its concern that our publication of Operation Dark Heart could cause damage to U.S. national security."

After consulting with Shaffer, "we agreed to incorporate some of the government's changes into a revised edition of his book while redacting other text he was told was classified. The newly revised book keeps our national interests secure, but this highly qualified warrior's story is still intact," the publisher said.

In the description, Shaffer says that "While I do not agree with the edits in many ways, the DoD redactions enhance the reader's understanding by drawing attention to the flawed results created by a disorganized and heavy handed military intelligence bureaucracy." 
The description says Shaffer led a "black-ops team on the forefront of the military efforts to block the Taliban's resurgence."

One loophole in the news that the book's first printing has been destroyed, the Pentagon has no plans to purchase the dozens of editor's review copies sent out by the publisher.

– Luis Martinez

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