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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A bungled attempt at censorship

Counter As the darkness of despotism descends over the United States, censorship is growing. Citizens are jailed for filming policemen defending the peace, and individuals are slapped with wiretapping charges for recording their own arrests. But in the once place where censorship actually makes sense--where national security is allegedly at stake in wartime--the censors aren't doing a very good job. Witness the experience of Anthony Schaffer when he published a first-person history of the intelligence war in Afghanistan.
Shaffer’s chain of command in the Army Reserve cleared his manuscript for release, but the Pentagon intervened with additional security concerns in early August, after the books had been printed but before they had gone on sale.

The upshot was that the Pentagon paid $47,300 in taxpayer money for the 9,500 books that constituted almost the entire first print run of the book and had the volumes destroyed Sept. 20, while the publisher, Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, issued a second edition Sept. 24 with roughly 200 words or passages blacked out.

The Defense Department’s action had two effects:

First, it drew attention to a book that otherwise had generated little prepublication buzz. The redacted version of “Operation Dark Heart” made it to No. 1 on Amazon’s overall best-seller list, and a week after going on sale, it was on its third reprint with 50,000 copies sold or on sale, said Joe Rinaldi, spokesman for Thomas Dunne Books.

Second, because St. Martin’s had sent what Rinaldi estimated at “60 to 70, at most” advance copies of the first edition to news organizations, including Army Times, journalists and others can compare the original and censored versions.

The Defense Department was forced into arranging for the books to be destroyed because “the book was not referred to the original classification authorities for a proper information security review until July 2010,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Rene White, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “We are looking into why this happened.”

As for the advance copies that were sent out to the news media, the department “has no plans to purchase the editor’s review copies,” she said. “We had hoped to recover these review copies before they became publicly available. In light of recent events, this has become more difficult.”
Oh boy. Nothing like yelling, "NOBODY LOOK!!!" to get everybody to look.

Among the revelations deleted from the book:

- Among the Taliban troops the US is fighting in Afghanistan are Pakistani Intelligence officers.
- Among the countries giving material aid to the Taliban in their war against the US is Iran.
- The US has successfully penetrated the Iranian intelligence by electronic means.

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