Operation Dark Heart: The Pentagon’s Dirty Little Secrets

In Whitney's Post on September 16, 2010 at 2:57 am

Before its official release, Anthony Shaffer’s war memoir, Operation Dark Heart, had already sold 10,000 copies. But rather than being read by the people of America, the books have been destroyed by the Pentagon. Shaffer was an intelligence operative in Afghanistan during the U.S. Army’s pursuit of al-Qaida and the Taliban in 2003. His book describes the operations that took place in the Army at that time, including some of his own “unorthodox” behavior.

Shaffer was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency while he was in Afghanistan and his book gives names of other U.S. intelligence officers he worked with, as well as descriptions of operations that the government would like to keep under wraps.

Pentagon officials claim that Shaffer did not abide by publishing guidelines set by the Defense Intelligence Agency, some of which may ask that a book be approved by more than one government agency.  However, Shaffer’s lawyer, Mark Zaid, says that it wasn’t until May of this year that the DIA requested to review the book.  Upon finishing their review, 10,000 copies of Operation Dark Heart had already been printed and the DIA had found some 200 passages deemed to reveal classified information. Knowing that the books had already been printed, the DIA contacted the publisher and offered to purchase the entire first printing of the book. A revised and Pentagon-friendly update of Shaffer’s book will be released September 24th, since the author has agreed to take out portions of the book that the Pentagon believed could affect national security.

Those who attempt to purchase the book on Amazon find the following message at the top of the book’s page:

Important Message for Customers
On Friday, August 13, 2010, just as St. Martin’s Press was readying its initial shipment of Operation Dark Heart, the Department of Defense expressed concern that its publication could cause damage to U.S. national security. The publication of the initial edition was canceled. However, after consulting with the author, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, St. Martin’s Press agreed to incorporate some of the government’s changes, which includes redacting classified text, into a revised edition, which is releasing on September 24.

According to the New York Times, this may be the first time that an agency attempted to dispose of material that was already printed. Although the Pentagon has already bought the first printing of the Operation Dark Heart, they did not act before “several dozen” copies of the original book had been given to reviewers. The New York Times itself has already purchased a copy. While most readers may not see an unedited version of the book themselves, it’s only a matter of time before the information reaches the public. As Mark Zaid said, “It probably would have made a lot more sense to never do anything, and nobody would have been the wiser. Fewer people would have read the book, and most of those people would have been inside the government, or people who already knew this stuff. Now, the government has highlighted that there’s something in this book that everyone wants to see.”


Amazon.com. Operation Dark Heart. http://www.amazon.com/Operation-Dark-Heart-Frontlines-Afghanistan/dp/0312612176/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284605154&sr=8-1.

Gjelten, Tom. “Pentagon Seeks To Buy Up Copies Of Afghan War Book.” September 10, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129780876.

Shane, Scott. “Pentagon Plan: Buying Books to Keep Secrets.” September 9, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/10/us/10books.html.

Smith, Sandy. “Pentagon censorship attempt backfires.” September 11, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.huliq.com/8738/pentagon-censorship-attempt-backfires.


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