PENTAGON DELAYS PUBLICATION OF NEW BOOK
The Department of Defense says that a forthcoming book about the war in Afghanistan contains classified information, and that it should not be put on the market in its current form. Instead, the Pentagon is considering whether to purchase and destroy the entire first printing of the book, "Operation Dark Heart" by Anthony A. Shaffer, while a revised edition is prepared. The controversy was first reported by the New York Times in "Pentagon Plan: Buying Books to Keep Secrets" by Scott Shane, September 10.
Shaffer, the book's author, is a former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer and Army lieutenant colonel. He submitted the manuscript to the Army for prepublication review and received permission to proceed earlier this year. The book was printed and prepared for release at the end of August by the publisher, St. Martin's Press.
But prior to the publication date, a copy of the manuscript was obtained by DIA and other intelligence agencies, all of whom raised new objections to its publication.
"DIA's preliminary classification review of this manuscript has identified significant classified information, the release of which I have determined could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security," wrote DIA Director Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, Jr. in an August 6 memo.
"I have also been informed that United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) have determined that the manuscript contains classified information concerning their activities. In the case of NSA, this includes information classified at the TOP SECRET level," Gen. Burgess wrote. He directed that Lt. Col. Shaffer be "ordered to take all necessary action to direct his publisher to withhold publication of the book" pending a new security review.
But the Pentagon now faces a policy conundrum due to the fact that numerous review copies of the book are already circulating in the public domain. (We picked up a couple of them last week.) What this means is that any effort to selectively censor the manuscript at this late date would actually tend to highlight and validate those portions of the text that agencies believe are sensitive, not to conceal them.
Therefore, as a practical security policy matter, it seems that the Pentagon's best move would be to do nothing and to allow the book to be published without further interference.