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Pentagon claims new book reveals national security secrets

By Charley Keyes, CNN
  • The military is hoping to suppress already-printed book about Afghanistan war
  • The author's attorney says the book was approved by the Army Reserve Command
  • He should have asked the Army and the Department of Defense, too, official says

Washington (CNN) -- A dispute over whether a new book reveals national security secrets about the war in Afghanistan has created a publicity bonanza for the book and opened a new chapter in the long-running Washington saga of what should be kept confidential.

One possible outcome is that the Pentagon could end up buying thousands of copies of the book's first printing in an effort to safeguard secrets that may be revealed anyway.

The book by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, "Operation Dark Heart," focuses on the early days of the war in Afghanistan and covert operations along the border with Pakistan. Shaffer's lawyer, Mark Zaid, says the book was reviewed by Shaffer's military superiors prior to publication.

"There was a green light from the Army Reserve Command," Zaid told CNN. But intelligence agencies apparently raised objections when they received copies of the book. They forced the publisher, St. Martin's Press, to hold off its release.

The Pentagon says Shaffer should have sought wider clearance.

"He did clear it with Army Reserve but not with the larger Army and with Department of Defense," said a Department of Defense spokesman, Col. David Lapan. "So he did not meet the requirements under Department of Defense regulations for security review."

Still undecided is whether the Pentagon will buy up tens of thousands of copies of the first printing of the book.

"Nothing has changed," said Zaid. "The discussions have continued."

"The department is in ongoing discussions with the publisher of the book and Lt. Col. Shaffer and his attorney about how to protect classified information and we haven't made any decisions yet about what the outcome might be," Lapan said.

According to the New York Times, which secured a copy of the book, it contains names of CIA and National Security Agency officers in Afghanistan, and has references to an NSA surveillance system.

The publisher says it has agreed to make changes requested by the government and held back the book's initial release.

"Friday, August 13, 2010, just as St. Martin's Press was readying its initial shipment of this book, the Department of Defense contacted us to express its concern that our publication of 'Operation Dark Heart' could cause damage to U.S. national security," the publisher's website said.

And a company employee, who insisted on anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly, said the book has been revised and will now be released in two weeks. The book has been edited with portions blacked out, which will allow anyone to see which sections prompted the Pentagon objections.

It is possible that all the efforts by the publisher and the Pentagon may fail. Thousands of copies of the first printing have been returned to a Virginia warehouse as talks continue between the publisher and the Pentagon. But some copies were released in advance to private reviewers and some may have been made available online.