Author Can Sue Pentagon Censors
WASHINGTON (CN) - Longtime Defense Intelligence Agency officer Anthony Shaffer has standing to sue the Pentagon and CIA for censoring his best-selling book "Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan and the Path to Victory," a federal judge ruled.
In his 2010 complaint, Shaffer claimed the spy agencies blacked out material from 250 pages of his 320-page book, which offers "a direct, detailed eyewitness account of the 2003 'tipping-point' of the war in Afghanistan and provides an unemotional examination of the events and decisions where mistakes were made in strategy."
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer denied the government's argument that because he sold the book to his publisher Shaffer lacks standing.
"Mr. Shaffer has standing because he maintains rights to publish an unredacted version of his book and, if the redactions are overbroad, to otherwise 'publish' the non-classified information in his book," the judge ruled.
Shaffer says he cleared his book with the Army Reserves before publication. He claims he and his ghost writer relied on unclassified documents, but DIA, CIA and Pentagon officials swooped in after 10,000 copies of the book had been printed, and demanded that 250 pages be redacted. The agencies paid his publisher $50,000 to destroy the unredacted copies.
Among the material that the agencies demanded be suppressed is the nickname for the NSA - "The Fort" - and the location of the CIA's Camp Peary training facility in Virginia. The name of "Deliverance" star Ned Beatty also was redacted.
Shaffer says the whole campaign was retaliation for a 2004 spat with the DIA over his security clearance: "DIA's efforts, in particular, are part of a continuing bad faith retaliatory campaign against Shaffer that dates back to 2004 when DIA initiated a frivolous action against him to revoke his security clearance. The Army Reserve discounted the allegations and in the midst of DIA's efforts, and with full knowledge of them, nevertheless promoted Shaffer to Lt. Col. In 2005, Shaffer became a national security whistleblower when he publicly claimed that a covert Pentagon task force called 'ABLE DANGER,' which he was a part of, had identified Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the September 11th attacks, before the assaults on New York and the Pentagon."
The government claimed that Shaffer signed away the rights to publish his book, losing his standing to sue, but Judge Collyer disagreed.
"Mr. Shaffer's First Amendment interest in his book is not limited to any contract he has signed thus far with a publisher in the United States or abroad," the judge wrote. "He has professed his intent to publish an unredacted version of his book beyond the confines of his publishing contracts. He maintains standing to seek relief from the defendant agencies classification decisions regarding his text."