Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pentagon Buys Out, Destroys Book, Alleging Security Violations


Washington (CNN) -- The Department of Defense recently purchased and destroyed thousands of copies of an Army Reserve officer's memoir in an effort to safeguard state secrets, a spokeswoman said Saturday.

"DoD decided to purchase copies of the first printing because they contained information which could cause damage to national security," Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. April Cunningham said.

In a statement to CNN, Cunningham said defense officials observed the September 20 destruction of about 9,500 copies of Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer's new memoir "Operation Dark Heart."

Shaffer says he was notified Friday about the Pentagon's purchase.

"The whole premise smacks of retaliation," Shaffer told CNN on Saturday. "Someone buying 10,000 books to suppress a story in this digital age is ludicrous."

I wonder who the document embarrassed, and why it was allowed to go so far before being stopped... if "stopped" is the right word for such an almost certainly ineffective procedure. Shaffer is right about the digital age:

At least one seller on the online auction site eBay claiming to have a first-edition printing is selling it for an asking price of nearly $2,000.  ...

Here's a sample of the redacted book:

One of the book's first lines reads, "Here I was in Afghanistan (redaction) My job: to run the Defense Intelligence Agency's operations out of (redaction) the hub for U.S. operations in country."

In chapter 15, titled "Tipping Point," 21 lines within the first two pages are blacked out.
But it's all OK, because DoD is reimbursing the publisher. Right.

Aside: back in 2003, I wrote a rather decent piece of doggerel titled "(Redacted)" ...


  1. This is absurd beyond any possible reason. The only people ever affected by this type of censorship are the American public.

    I have had this argument so many times:

    This is their information, so they obviously know it. It is readily available so they know that we know it. So, what is the point of classifying it?

    We don't want them to know how we know it.

    You mean you don't think they look at their subscribers' list and know that the US Air Force is a subscriber to all of their periodicals and newspapers? Because that's what it says on the bloody mailing label.

    Like I said, a very old fight for me.

    Look at it this way, the author is an instant bestseller and is going to get a big royalty check. Everyone who received a review copy is going to make big bucks, and everything redacted is probably already on line.

    If the DoD had ignored the book, few people would even know it existed, but they don't think like that.

  2. Bryan, it doesn't do the Pentagon any good to depend on citizens' personal stupidity in matters of security. If they didn't want the material in that book published, they should have rejected the redacted passages BEFORE it was in print. I'll bet there is more than that one copy of the original floating around out there somewhere.

    But the real irony is that apparently some of the "secrets" were readily available on the 'net, right out in public. Do you suppose they deliberately drew attention to the book, not for security reasons but for the benefit or detriment of the author?



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