Pentagon Book Burning: A Reminder of Yesterday and Things Yet to Come

Operation Book Burn: Pentagon Buys Thousands of New Book To Destroy Them

By Jonathan Turly

Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer would normally feel honored that the Pentagon was so interested in his memoir “Operation Dark Heart” that it purchased thousands of copies. The problem is that the Pentagon bought the books to burn them. Now that must set a new low for a bad review.

The Department of Defense believes that the book contains secrets and so, in a move that has produced outright scorn from critics, it purchased every available copy. The problem is that it has not bought every copy and seems clueless on the fact that the book can also be purchased in digital form.

Nevertheless, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. April Cunningham explained that “DoD decided to purchase copies of the first printing because they contained information which could cause damage to national security.” Just short of 10,000 copies.

The second run of the book by St. Martin’s Press incorporates changes demanded by the government, including the redaction of material claimed to be classified. The new book shows blacked out single words, names, and even entire paragraphs– a useful aid for foreign countries with the original book to quickly find the classified portions. Shaffer says that the book was given a pre-publication review and approved for production.

He also says that the material that was removed in the second edition was “ludicrous.”

Notably, at least one copy of the first-edition missed the DoD fireside sale purchase — the author has put up the book for nearly $2000 (a bit higher than the original $25.99 asking price). There are some bibliophiles in D.C. who might be willing to pay that price.

The question is whether the Pentagon will charge such a seller with attempted sale of classified information since the increase in price reflects knowledge of the first edition’s intelligence value. While the seller does not know what specifically is classified in the book, he or she presumably knows that the DoD has found the book contains such information. Here is the language from section 798:

§ 798. Disclosure of classified information

(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information—
(1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or
(2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or
(3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or
(4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

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