By Anne Lowe
PUBLIC INFORMATION The first run of an Afghanistan spy-war memoir scheduled for a September 24 release could be sold out before it ever reaches bookstore shelveswith just one buyer.
The Defense Intelligence Agency is negotiating with the publisher of Operation Dark Heart, a war memoir written by former Defense Intelligence Agency Officer Anthony A. Schaffer, to buy all 10,000 copies of the books first printing so they can be destroyed. The agency originally reviewed and released the memoir for publishing in January, but officials had a change of heart after other agencies reviewed the book and found potential information leaks in more than 200 passages.
The New York Times reports:
Release of the book could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security, Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., the D.I.A. director, wrote in an Aug. 6 memorandum. He said reviewers at the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and United States Special Operations Command had all found classified information in the manuscript.
The disputed material includes the names of American intelligence officers who served with Colonel Shaffer and his accounts of clandestine operations, including N.S.A. eavesdropping operations, according to two people briefed on the Pentagons objections. They asked not to be named because the negotiations are supposed to be confidential.
By the time the D.I.A. objected, however, several dozen copies of the unexpurgated 299-page book had already been sent out to potential reviewers, and some copies found their way to online booksellers. The New York Times was able to buy a copy online late last week.
The dispute arises as the Obama administration is cracking down on disclosures of classified information to the news media, pursuing three such prosecutions to date, the first since 1985. Separately, the military has charged an Army private with giving tens of thousands of classified documents to the organization WikiLeaks.
Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said the case showed that judgments on what is classified are often arbitrary and highly subjective. But in this case, he said, it is possible that D.I.A. reviewers were more knowledgeable than their Army counterparts about damage that disclosures might do.
I detect more than a little hint of paranoia in all of this. If there are ‘sensitive’ names involved, change them! Then publish the memoir and be damned.