In an unusual move, the Defense Intelligence Agency has entered negotiations with St. Martin’s Press to purchase all 10,000 copies of Operation Dark Heart, the controversial memoirs of former undercover operative Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer.
The move is unusual because the book had already been cleared for publication by the U.S. Army. Also, it only pertains to a section about a data-mining project, “Able Danger,” which the book alleges identified Mohammed Atta as a terrorist threat before 9/11.
However, the objections to the book’s publication don’t come from the Army. In a letter obtained by Fox News, Lt. General Richard Zahner says that upon review, the U.S. Special Operations Command, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency found information classified as TOP SECRET in the manuscript, and have requested an immediate stay of publication.
Shaffer alleges that DIA is attempting to block the book because it reveals information left out of the 9/11 commission report. From FoxNews.com,“Dr. Philip Zelikow approached me in the corner of the room. ‘What you said today is very important. I need you to get in touch with me as soon as you return from your deployment here in Afghanistan’,” Shaffer said.
He says that upon his return to the U.S., he contacted the commission, but was told the commission was no longer interested in his information and dismissed without further explanation. He informed DoD’s inspector general, who concluded there was no evidence to support the claims of Shaffer and others.
This makes for a puzzling set of circumstances. It seems that Shaffer submitted his work to the 94th Training Division for an operational security and ethics review to make sure the manuscript didn’t have a Geraldo Rivera-esque map-in-the-sand moment. It’s entirely plausible the commission rubber-stamped the book and never sent it any higher up the chain of command, thinking the issue was closed. After all, 10,000 copies from St. Martin’s Press isn’t exactly as high profile as a 1.5 million print run from Random House.
But it’s tough to spin this snafu in a way that doesn’t tarnish the military’s reputation in some way. Either the book should never have been authorized in the first place and could jeopardize operations in Afghanistan, in which case Shaffer should withdraw the book from publication and somebody seriously erred, or it’s a political move to suppress damaging information. Whatever the case, the controversial section of the book has to be really explosive to warrant calling so much attention to the issue.
Of course, it’s always possible that this is all just a publicity stunt. I know this book has made my reading list if it ever goes to print.