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Pentagon Aims To Buy Up Book 347

jamie writes "Operation Dark Heart, a book about the adventures and frustrations of an Army officer who served in Afghanistan, has ruffled some feathers at the Pentagon. From the article: 'The Defense Department is attempting to buy the entire first printing — 10,000 copies — of a memoir by a controversial former Defense Intelligence Agency officer so that the book can be destroyed, according to military and other sources."
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Pentagon Aims To Buy Up Book

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  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @04:55PM (#33547906)

    They're buying the damned book themselves, paying cash for it. It's not really censorship if they, instead of banning it, go through entirely legal channels to simply purchase every copy of it, is it?

    It is when they are requiring that any additional print runs be redacted, which is the case here.

  • by Jartan ( 219704 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @04:57PM (#33547938)

    The blurb is intentionally misleading here. The govt gave the OK for the book but then upon a later review they were worried about some names released and a 2nd printing has already been agreed upon by both parties. They are just deciding what to do with 10k books that were already printed. Obviously the publisher spent money to already print them so they aren't going to just destroy them.

  • by muuh-gnu ( 894733 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @04:59PM (#33547956)

    They sent out their minions to buy up Hubbard books in order to artificially push them into the charts.

    Maybe the Pentagon is trying something similar here? ;)

  • Re:Print More (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:03PM (#33547994)

    I realize you're just posting to spam your link, however if you look at the article it answers your question.

    It was initially cleared for printing by the military. A different military organization later took a look at the book and had some objections. The author appears to have edited newer editions of his book to comply with what the military wanted (changing names I think) however the first 10,000 books were already printed.

    The military now wants to buy the first edition out so that people will only be able to buy the newer, revised editions.

  • Re:Print More (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:11PM (#33548066)

    Exactly what I was thinking, and what they appear to be doing. According to the article, the second print run has been edited enough that the DoD is okay with it being public. The DoD is buying the 10,000 copies that are already printed, and allegedly didn't go through the proper DoD security review prior to publication.

  • Re:Print More (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:21PM (#33548158)

    Also, there's already a perfectly working package that does that. []

  • by GNUALMAFUERTE ( 697061 ) <> on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:33PM (#33548254)

    From wikipedia:

    "Censorship is the suppression of speech or other communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body."

    This clearly qualifies as censorship. It doesn't matter how the suppression of information is achieved, as long as information is being suppressed intentionally because of its content, it is censorship.

    And, regardless of how you define this (censorship or otherwise), it certainly is still wrong.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:34PM (#33548266)

    I think our government should just abolish the first amendment. They clearly don't believe in it. This just makes me so sick. Where is wikileaks when you need them?

    The author is a vet and had the military review the book. After publishing someone thought something had erroneously been left in. The author and publisher are cooperating, a new version is already being printed without the part in question. Buying the first printing of books may be the simplest way to deal with them. The military reviewers goofed not the publisher so the publisher should not suffer any loss. Given that the author and publisher do not want to reveal anything sensitive and are cooperating with the government I don't see censorship. Censorship is when someone wants to publish and is prohibited, not when someones says is all this ok with you ... no ... ok lets edit.

  • by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:36PM (#33548274)

    The government cannot censor material before it is printed by regular people. But if you worked for the government and write about intelligence you learned while there, then the government can review it and "suggest" redactions before it is printed.

    That's what happened here, it's just they printed 10,000 copies that were insufficiently redacted, so those will be destroyed, the company compensated and then more copies with the proper redactions printed. As to the jokers making comments about digital copies, those would be destroyed and no one compensated, because the "buying up books" here isn't to get them off the market, they won't be going to market anyway. It's just to compensate for expenses of printing books they cannot now put on shelves as-is.

    This is censorship, because it is the government restricting speech. But is is a special case of info from a government employee, and that is allowed under the law, whether you agree with it or not. It has been this way for some time, I used to have a paperback from the early 70s that advertised the government went to court to stop its publication because the author worked for the CIA before. That book was eventually published with some redactions as this one will too.

  • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:37PM (#33548282)

    "agreed upon by both parties"

    Maybe you missed that bit. It's not government forcing anything. The publisher agreed to it. The government made a reasonable request and was willing to compensate the publisher for their trouble, and everything is fine. The 2nd version will be printed and anyone can buy it.

  • by deapbluesea ( 1842210 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:38PM (#33548288)

    But when the first printing sells out, the publisher is only going to print more.

    Did you even RTFA? Let me sum up since you seem to be too lazy:

    The first run was printed after the author received permission from the Army Reserve. The Pentagon got wind of it after the first printing and discovered that there was a lot of material that shouldn't have been printed in the first place. The publisher and author then worked with the Pentagon to redact the questionable material, but that left the publisher with 10000 books sitting in a warehouse that can't be sold.

    Since the Army Reserve is really the unit that screwed up in this case by not sending the manuscript up the chain for higher level review, the responsibility for paying for all those books rests with the DoD in general. It's actually the honourable thing to do in this case - along with firing whoever signed off on it in the Reserve component.

  • i hope people rtfa (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:45PM (#33548346)

    The Slashdot summary is a gross misrepresentation. The govt had problems with use of real names in a number of places. The publisher is already running a second printing that does not use the names. The ONLY issue here is what to do with the 10000 or so copies printed before the changes were made. To argue that this is about censorship is gross hyperbole.

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) * on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:47PM (#33548370)

    No kidding, let's not become the Fox News of the internet.

    Too late.

  • by darkwing_bmf ( 178021 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @05:53PM (#33548394)

    For all the people say "LOL they'll just print more" or "OMG censorship is bad!" here are the relevant parts of the story:

    "[T]he Defense Intelligence Agency objected to the use of the names of American intelligence officers, among other issues." and "A new print run, without the disputed passages, is being prepared by the publisher."

    This compromise is reasonable and legal. We still get the story but the intelligence officers names won't be published.

  • by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @06:02PM (#33548462)

    The publisher is in the clear, but if classified info is in there the author can go straight off to prison. The issue here is that the DoD erroneously okayed the first edition on that issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 11, 2010 @06:24PM (#33548578)

    Boy are you naive...
    I don't know how old you are but have you heard of the Pentagon Papers? Do you honestly think that was the one and only time ever that acting leaders thought it would be a good idea to withhold facts to get public support and backing for their "agenda"? How about the drug war or weapons of mass destruction? Let me guess.. you agree that random searches should be legal because only those with something legal would object.

  • by Totenglocke ( 1291680 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @07:37PM (#33549056)

    The downward spiral began with Lincoln violating the Constitution and starting a war to prevent people from peacefully leaving the US. I have an old Lit. book from college with personal letters in it written by Lincoln - there's one where he writes to the Confederate leaders and in very plain terms says that he's ok with letting them keep slaves as long as they rejoined the US and acknowledged his supreme power - if they refused to bow before him, he would destroy them. Then once FDR came to power and violated just about every last inch of the Constitution.........but I just expanded a comment below and saw that he goes into FDR, so I'll stop there.

  • by C0L0PH0N ( 613595 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @07:57PM (#33549152)
    Amazon's Statement - I went to Amazon to see if it was still available. Here was their statement about the book: "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. "
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @08:27PM (#33549304) Journal
    As a correction, it appears that what you are saying is that the government went broke in 1933, and it's been getting worse ever since. It's not the case; there have been times since then that the fiscal outlook was really good for the country. Of course, give politicians money and they will spend it. But you can't look at the 1933 gold confiscation and say it is responsible for the current government problems, anymore than you can say the 1930s depression is responsible for the current recession. And you can't say that unless you completely ignore history.
  • by Legion303 ( 97901 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @08:51PM (#33549418) Homepage

    "Thank you for giving us a green light to print money, Pentagon." --The Publishers

  • by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Saturday September 11, 2010 @08:52PM (#33549422)
    Yes, it is called "voluntary" censorship, and worked very well for many years in the Soviet Union where famous authors would hide or modify their manuscripts for publishing.

    It was derided and criticized by the West all along, and many books that were "unpublishable" in the USSR in their "unabridged" format were moved to the West and printed there.
  • by Zixaphir ( 845917 ) <> on Saturday September 11, 2010 @09:56PM (#33549720) Homepage
    Damn right. You are "censoring" information you deem "inappropriate" for your audience. "Censorship is the suppression of speech or other communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body." "When a publisher comes under pressure to suppress a book, but has already entered into a contract with the author, they will sometimes effectively censor the book by deliberately ordering a small print run and making minimal, if any, attempts to publicize it. This practice became known in the early 2000s as privishing."
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:11AM (#33550316)

    Something I think many forget, or never know is that part of a security clearance is a non-disclosure agreement. You agree not to disclose classified material. It is as binding as any other NDA, and in fact has criminal penalties behind it. Now that doesn't mean you can never talk about anything. Things get declassified, after long enough passes this tends to happen by default (50 years usually).

    However it does mean that you have to be careful what you disclose. In general, the government works with people in this regard. You want to write a book about something that is legal for you to disclose, they'll review it to make sure nothing goes in there that shouldn't. In this case, it sounds like the events can be talked about, but not the names. Makes sense.

    What happened here is that it got missed somehow. They noticed they missed it, but to until after the printing run was done. So "mea cupla," they ask the author to change it, and teh publisher to do another run. However the first run is still done, the money spent. So they buy it up. Now everyone is happy.

  • by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @03:48AM (#33551144)

    If you get a security clearance, the documents you sign stipulate that anything you want to publish is subject to review before it can be released to the public.

    And if you had a "writer" clearance in the SU - a membership to the Writers' Union (a professional organization of writers there) - you'd sign documents that stipulated your work is subject to editorial review before it could be released to the public. It was considerably more difficult to get a book out "officially" without such membership.

    You can see how similar is this in form to what the Pentagon is doing. One difference is that publication money was never an issue, as the state was paying all the bills anyway. ;)

    And Soviet authors participated in "voluntary" censorship to the extent that they criticized their leadership & oligarchs anyways through extensive and satirical allegory that could pass the censors' review without diluting the message.

    First, there were no "oligarchs" in the Soviet era, there were Politburo members. The oligarchs are a new development.

    Second, satirical allegory, especially extensive one, was allowed (or passed censorship) on very rare occasions. Most censorship violations happened when unapproved books were distributed by Samizdat (self-publishing).

    Third, this is largely irrelevant to the question is voluntary censorship a censorship. I am not implying that censorship is necessarily bad, I am just answering GP's question with an example.

    So, is what the Pentagon is doing a form of censorship? Yes, it is, no doubt about it.

  • by Trailwalker ( 648636 ) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:07AM (#33552384)

    What about the medical profession, prescriptions exist for good reason, far more than just limiting supply to drug users.

    The "good reason" was part of the AMA's campaign to eliminate competition during the early 1900's.

    This long effort eliminated midwife home birthing in many states, prescriptions by pharmacists everywhere, and any other potential competition. Nothing like a monopoly to insure income.

    Medicine in a business like any other and their lobbyists in the AMA delivered.

    All under the guise of "professionalism" and think-of-the-lives-that-could-be-saved.

    Control of all drugs through prescriptions was just part of the campaign. What became Big Pharma was one of their major allies.

You are always doing something marginal when the boss drops by your desk.