Defense Department to Destroy 10,000 Books

With controversy over book burning now hitting the news, another kind of book burning is now coming out.  The entire first printing of Anthony Schaffer’s memoirs, approximately 10,000 books, have been bought up by the defense department and are expected to be destroyed.  The book was bought up for reasons of national security.  The controversy is expected to skyrocket the book’s popularity, but what else is going on here?

Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Schaffer’s book, “Operation Dark Heart” has been the center of controversy since the first drafts started circulating.  After approving the book for release, a request recently came from the Defense Department to St. Martin’s Press requesting all 10,000 copies of the book.  It’s easy to imagine the tone of surprise, “How many books would the Defense Department like to purchase?  What do you mean all of them?”

The book candidly outlines the operations taking place in Afghanistan and several protocols that military officials used to spy on Al Qaeda operatives of differing levels of influence.  Interestingly this was not the point of contention the DOD claims to have with the book, but rather the naming of officers involved in the various operations.  While some are calling the move a clandestine Big Brother tactic, the security measures involved may make more sense if we take a look at another case – this one in 2003.

In 2003 the Plame Affair as it was called saw the release of a CIA agent’s name, effectively not only ending their career but also placing them at serious risk.  During the incident, journalist Robert Novak was leaked information and then informed by a confidential source that the names involved were not CIA operatives, but rather merely analysts.  When he published this information publicly, several careers ended and at least one agent’s life was subsequently put in danger.  Since that time, the military and intelligence agencies have been more in tune with name dropping of official business by journalists and in memoirs.

Is this a case of a black ops blackout?  Or is there a legitimate cause for concern regarding Operation Dark Heart’s use of names?  And why would the Defense Department suddenly change its mind about what could be approved in the book?  With 10,000 copies bought with taxpayer’s money suddenly set to be destroyed many are paying close attention to this story.

Additionally, the controversy has allowed Ebay sellers to cash in on the incident.  Allegedly, several sellers have begun selling original copies of the book complete with original names intact and make a profit off of the controversy but only one copy could be found with most others actually being for advanced copies of the edited book.

Should the government be able to buy up all of these copies to keep these names secret?  What’s actually happening doesn’t seem as dramatic as some are indicating with tens of thousands of books being “seized” and burned.  Does the DoD have a right to purchase the books like this and then do whatever it wants after doing so?  Or should there be some measure to stop this sort of thing from happening before it’s a problem?