Details Removed from Book at Request of U.S. Department of Defense

From the AFP:

A publisher has agreed to remove US intelligence details from a memoir by a former army officer in Afghanistan after the Pentagon raised last-minute objections, officials said Friday.

The book, “Operation Dark Heart,” had been printed and prepared for release in August but St. Martin’s Press will now issue a revised version of the spy memoir after negotiations with the Pentagon, US and company officials said.

In an unusual step, the Defense Department has agreed to reimburse the company for the cost of the first printing, spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told AFP.

The original manuscript “contained classified information which had not been properly reviewed” by the military and US spy agencies, he said.

St. Martin’s press will destroy copies from the first printing with Pentagon representatives observing “to ensure it’s done in accordance with our standards,” Lapan said.

The second, revised edition would be ready by the end of next week, said the author’s lawyer, Mark Zaid.

EDITED TO ADD (9/30): An analysis of the redacted material—obtained by comparing the two versions—is amusing.

Posted on September 23, 2010 at 7:19 AM29 Comments


Christof September 23, 2010 7:42 AM

From the article: “But with copies of the original manuscript already circulating, the Pentagon’s move may backfire and end up calling more attention to intelligence details that the government wanted to keep quiet, said Steven Aftergood, who runs the project on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists.”

no worries September 23, 2010 7:50 AM

for example fort meade is routinely called “the fort” in the washington community, but that was one of the issues that was cited as classified. You arent supposed to know what the fort means in washinton.

M Welinder September 23, 2010 7:55 AM

If anyone has access to the original, all you need to add is “diff” and you have real trouble.

Imperfect Citizen September 23, 2010 8:39 AM

@no worries they were a little late, people know what “the fort” means outside Washington too.

In a perfect world, the intelligence community would have objected to the clunky prose. That should have been redacted.

Spy Games September 23, 2010 8:47 AM

add credibility to the redacted misinformation.

Damn you’ve got a devious mind. Maybe they do, too.

BT September 23, 2010 8:57 AM

So how long before the original and a diff compare to the published version are on bittorrent/wikileaks?

andyinsdca September 23, 2010 9:21 AM

This is in total contrast to the book GCHQ that I’m reading about the sigint (oops, that’s one of those terms the Pentagon doesn’t want anyone to know) operation in the UK that has everything but copies of one-time cipher pads.

Matthew September 23, 2010 9:45 AM

And DND HQ in Ottawa used to be (and still is?) known as “Fort F**k Up” to members of the Canadian Forces . . .

paul September 23, 2010 10:55 AM

For all the kerfuffle, this seems pretty straightforward to me. People with official access to classified material routinely sign agreements to allow review of things they write, and the DoD routinely redacts manuscripts (with a hefty dose of favoritism depending on the identity of the author). This one is just hitting the papers because of the administrative foulup.

David Thornley September 23, 2010 11:06 AM

@paul: Also, perhaps, because the DoD isn’t dealing with anybody who signed an agreement. The book is in the publisher’s hands, and I doubt the publisher contracted with the Federal government to allow the DoD censorship rights.

This leaves the DoD the choice of allowing the book to be published and then suing if appropriate, or making a deal with the publisher. (It isn’t Constitutional for the US government to exercise censorship before publication, and there’s court rulings on that. If it was, then the DoD wouldn’t need separate agreements with people with access to classified material.)

Publishers are usually lawsuit-averse, so I don’t know why the DoD didn’t just threaten to sue the publisher if the book was released as written. Perhaps they weren’t confident of their case in the courts, perhaps a publisher was feeling ornery.

Richard Steven Hack September 23, 2010 11:07 AM

And it is guaranteed that the information to be redacted is already known to absolutely everyone who would care or benefit or not benefit by so knowing.

And almost certainly as guaranteed is that the information is something that would put the Pentagon or some US – or NATO – politician in a bad light to the US public.

Like Wikileaks hasn’t done that already.

What a farce.

You know when someone in the Pentagon is lying? When their lips are moving. They lie almost as much as someone from Microsoft.

mcb September 23, 2010 11:50 AM

Neat. The author gets to keep his advance, collect bonuses for selling the entire first run and doing so instantly, and then reap the rewards of more lucrative terms for the second printing…Christmas comes early.

KR September 23, 2010 12:02 PM

I worked for DoD for 12 years and nothing but nothing was as stupid, arbitrary and ineffective as security.

What probably happened was this: The author got the approval to publish. (Hence no lawsuit.) Then somebody arbitrarily decided that some meaningless name (“Operation Nosepicker”) hadn’t been properly declassified. So they picked the stupidest option possible : spend money to guarantee the gaffe is brought to attention.

Believe me there is nothing revealing or even interesting in what they cut out.

Nick P September 23, 2010 12:19 PM

I figure KR is probably right about the move being a combination of extreme paranoia and typical DOD incompetence. The bigger issue is that things like this happen quite often and many Americans still think they are living in a “democracy” with “freedom” the rest of the world doesn’t have. Each year, we move further in the other direction.

Hell, Hitler or Stalin would have paid a fortune to have the domestic intelligence gathering capabilities US authorities and information brokers have today. Anyone wanting to know how far that rabbit hole goes should start by looking at In-Q-Tel, CIA’s venture capital firm for dual-use tech. Echelon and Carnivore are important but less relevant today… and less necessary.

rob September 23, 2010 8:20 PM

why are so many asshats trusted with any security job only to retire and they roll over for cash by exposing them? cannot some process eliminate these potential cash, vanity, and(or) pride seekers?

can’t you guys ever quiety retire or move to another job without writing a book?

Derek September 23, 2010 11:12 PM

General Hammond:
You ever think of writing a book about your military exploits?

Jack O’Neill:
I’ve thought about it. But then I’d have to shoot anybody that actually read it. [pause] That’s a joke, sir.

Marcos El Malo September 24, 2010 2:03 AM

I feel like I’m back at Conspiracy Camp, sitting around the campfire telling spooky stories!

Nostromo September 24, 2010 4:08 AM

I find it slightly comforting to see our rulers doing conspicuously stupid things like this.

We’d lose our freedom a lot faster and more completely if they were smart and competent.

Jim September 26, 2010 11:47 AM

@Nostromo “We’d lose our freedom a lot faster and more completely if they were smart and competent.”

  • By their nature the smart, competent actions don’t usually show up on the radar. Hence, we tend to only find out about the dumb things they do.

Roger September 28, 2010 9:12 AM

Wasn’t St. Martin’s Press one of H.O. Yardley’s publishers?

They certainly weren’t a first edition publisher of anything he wrote. Apart from “Education of a Poker Player” (first published by Simon and Schuster in 1957) all his books were first published in the 1930s and 1940s, years before St. Martin’s Press was even founded in 1952. (Apart from short articles for newspapers, he never seems to have used the same publisher twice!)

They may have republished something, of course. Especially “Education of a Poker Player”; it was by far the most successful thing he ever did, and has been through numerous editions with several publishers. Unfortunately, he died of a stroke shortly after the royalties started rolling in.

steve8072 January 22, 2011 8:14 AM

Chanced on these comments a few months after everybody else. Enjoyed the comments. Much more interesting than another “How the government screwed up again and lied about it” book.

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