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When book banning backfires

Special to the DailyThe Department of Defense spent $47,000 taxpayer dollars this month to buy, ban and destroy the entire first edition of "Operation Dark Heart," because it says the book threatens national security. The result was to make the book a bestseller. The Bookworm in the Edwards Riverwalk will soon have five copies of the second edition. Most of the information to which the DoD objects was already available in the public domain.
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The U.S. Department of Defense is observing Banned Book Week in its own way. Last week, it bought, banned and pulped a book it says threatens national security.

So of course “Operation Dark Heart” is the hottest item on eBay, selling for more than $2,000 per copy in online auctions.

Local bookseller The Bookwork in the Edwards Rverwalk will soon have five copies of the “Operation Dark Heart” second edition.



“It is in high demand right now,” said Anuschka Bales, lead bookseller/co-op manager with the Bookworm. “There are 200 copies left available from the country’s largest book distributor and the Bookworm is getting five of them.”

“Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan – And the Path to Victory” by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer made the Department of Defense nervous enough that it spent $47,000 to buy 9,500 copies – what it thought was the entire first printing.



Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said military officials last week watched as St. Martin’s Press pulped the books to be recycled.

“The Department of Defense couldn’t have timed their actions any better. I could not have asked for better publicity support,” Shaffer said. He was No. 6 and climbing on Amazon.com at presstime.

Shaffer led covert operations in Afghanistan that targeted Taliban resurgents in Pakistan.



“The Pentagon must have had no legal standing to stop its publishing, so they bought them all and pulped them,” Bales said. “They obviously felt strongly enough to take that action.”

St. Martin’s Press had planned to release the book Aug. 31. The Army Reserve had cleared the manuscript, but the DoD withdrew the approval, insisting it contained classified material.

Shaffer says everything in his book was already available in the public domain.

And what might some of those secrets be?

Well, that rascal Scott Shane at the New York Times perused the uncensored manuscript and found that most of this information lives in places that anyone with opposable thumbs can find.

Among the fun facts censored by the DoD from Operation Dark Heart, according to the New York Times:

• “Operation Dark Heart” calls the National Security Agency’s headquarters the Fort. A quick look at Google Earth finds the Fort inside Fort Meade, Maryland.

• The CIA’s training facility is in Camp Peary, Va., a fact found on Wikipedia.

• The name and abbreviation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which you can find by googling or binging news articles.

• Sigint means signals intelligence, which may or may not apply to the DoD.

• Not only did the DoD censor Col. Shaffer’s cover name in Afghanistan, Chris Strykert, it deleted the source of his pseudonym – John Wayne’s character in the 1949 movie “The Sands of Iwo Jima.”

“The New York Times actually exposed some of the lunacy of the process,” Shaffer said during an interview with Fox News.

Shaffer said he disagrees with many of the the DoD’s edits, but they do serve a purpose.

“The DoD redactions enhance the reader’s understanding by drawing attention to the flawed results created by a disorganized and heavy handed military intelligence bureaucracy,” Shaffer said.


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