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Pentagon to be sued for censoring intelligence officer’s book

Published time: November 13, 2012 21:11
Edited time: November 14, 2012 01:11
Book cover "Operation dark heart", author Anthony Shaffer

Book cover "Operation dark heart", author Anthony Shaffer

A former intelligence officer with the Department of Defense has been given the go-ahead by a federal judge to sue the Pentagon and the CIA for censoring his best-selling account of the war in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer can follow through with his plans to take his former employers to court, US District Judge Rosemary Collyer decided this week, ruling against the government’s arguments that the author of "Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan and the Path to Victory” had no standing to sue.

Shaffer has been after the government since 2010 when the Pentagon recalled 10,000 copies of “Operation Dark Heart” after it had already been printed, then order redactions on 250 pages — or around five-sevenths of the book. Shaffer says the Army Reserves cleared the contents of his book before it hit the presses, and insists that all materials cited in his account come from unclassified documents.

Speaking to RT after his book was originally yanked from stores, Shaffer said the government wasted nearly $50,000 on destroying his book although they had ample time to intervene before that.

“No surprise,” he said. “Unless I would have gone out with a blow horn and stood in front of the Pentagon and yelled about my book, I don’t know how else I could have made it any more clear the book was coming out.”

Shaffer responded be attempting to file a lawsuit, but the would-be defendants said he lacked standing because the book was now the contents of a publishing company, not the author.

Courthousenews reports on Tuesday that Judge Collyer shot down those claims from the Pentagon, agreeing to let Shaffer continue with his plans to take them to court.

"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.

"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."

According to Shaffer, his former employer — the Defense Intelligence Agency — is pursuing all efforts to keep him out of court because of his role as a “national security whistleblower” for speaking out about his role in the Pentagon’s ‘ABLE DANGER’ task force that identified an operative in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks before the events unfolded. In court papers, Shaffer’s attorneys write that the “DIA initiated a frivolous action against him to revoke his security clearance” after he went public with the program.