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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Author Fights Censorship from Pentagon

WASHINGTON (CN) - Longtime DIA officer Anthony Shaffer claims the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and CIA retaliated for his work on a task force that identified Mohammed Atta as a security risk, before the Sept. 11 attacks, by unconstitutionally suppressing unclassified material on 250 of the 320 pages of his best-selling book "Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan and the Path to Victory."

In his federal complaint, Shaffer says that 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."

Shaffer says he went through the process of clearing his book with the government before publication. As a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, Shaffer says, he notified his chain of command that he was writing the book, and submitted the first draft for review by "two highly qualified Army Reserve officers - a military attorney with the rank of Major ... and a Colonel who works as a civilian contractor for the Director of National Intelligence."

He says the ghost writer he hired "relied upon unclassified documents" to create the book's story line and chapter structure. The ghost writer, Jacqui Salmon, then a reporter for the Washington Post, also used independent interviews and read books on the topic, Shaffer says.

On Dec. 26, 2009, an Army Reserve official "stated that based on his review of the manuscript it was his understanding that Shaffer used only unclassified information and open sources in his memoir," the complaint states.

But after announcing the book's publication through major media outlets in the spring of 2010, Shaffer says, the DIA demanded "access to the already cleared manuscript."

Shaffer says the Army Reserve gave the DIA a copy of the book a few months later, and notified him "that there was 'tremendous pressure' being brought upon the Army by DIA to withdraw the Reserve's approval for the publication of the book."

Shaffer says the Army told him: "There is a 'huge target on your back."

The DIA then claimed the book contained classified information and had Shaffer's publisher pull the book 3 weeks before the publication date.

"Eventually, approximately 250 pages out of 320 pages of Operation Dark Heart were required to contain redactions in order to allegedly prevent the disclosure of classified information. Little to none of this information, however, is actually classified," Shaffer says.

St. Martin's Press accepted the edited version of his book, and the Pentagon paid it $50,000 to destroy the nearly 10,000 copies of the book it already had printed, Shaffer says.

Among the material that the agencies demanded be suppressed is that the "The Fort" is the nickname for the NSA; the location of the CIA's training facility at Camp Peary, Va.; and Shaffer's cover name in Afghanistan - Chris Stryker - which he took from a John Wayne movie.

Also redacted from the book was "Deliverance" star Ned Beatty's name, which the Huffington Post called "among the more unnecessary redactions."

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."

Shaffer seeks declaratory judgment of his right to publish, and an injunction restraining the DIA, the Pentagon and CIA from interfering with his right to publish unclassified information and from initiating criminal or civil actions against him. He also seeks compensatory damages.

Shaffer is represented by Mark Zaid.

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