Journalism in the Public Interest

Read: Not-so-Secret ‘Secrets’ the Pentagon Paid Thousands to Destroy

The Defense Department paid $47,000 to destroy 9,500 unredacted copies of a former Army intelligence officer’s new memoir, The Associated Press reported this week. The Pentagon contended that the book, “Operation Dark Heart,” by Anthony Shaffer, contained intelligence secrets and has therefore sought to destroy copies that were published before the book was redacted.

But unredacted copies still exist. The book had originally been cleared by the Army and advance copies had been sent out before the Pentagon decided the book contained classified material. The New York Times bought one of these copies online a few weeks ago, compared it to the redacted version, and noted that some of the secrets were, well, not so secret:

The National Security Agency, headquarters for the government’s eavesdroppers and code breakers, has been located at Fort Meade, Md., for half a century.

Its nickname, the Fort, has been familiar for decades to neighbors and government workers alike. Yet that nickname is one of hundreds of supposed secrets Pentagon reviewers blacked out in the new, censored edition of an intelligence officer’s Afghan war memoir ….

Another supposed secret removed from the second printing: the location of the Central Intelligence Agency’s training facility — Camp Peary, Va., a fact discoverable from Wikipedia. And the name and abbreviation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, routinely mentioned in news articles. And the fact that Sigint means “signals intelligence.”

Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News pulled together a side-by-side of redacted and unredacted versions of the book. It’s just a few pages, but it gives you a taste. Aftergood writes:

Perhaps 10% of the redacted passages do have some conceivable security sensitivity, including the identity of the CIA chief of station in Kabul, who has been renamed “Jacob Walker” in the new version, and a physical description of the location and appearance of the CIA station itself, which has been censored. Many other redactions are extremely tenuous. 

… In short, the book embodies the practice of national security classification as it exists in the United States today.  It does not exactly command respect.

A recent secrecy report card, as we noted, found that government agencies spent nearly $9 billion in 2009 to maintain secrets on the books, while spending $45 million on declassifying documents.  That works out to almost $200 spent on keeping secrets for every $1 spent declassifying them.

much hand wringing over so little. public info is there for everyone. someone got mighty heavy with their blackout marker. just looks like a soldier writing about his experience. when is it coming to a library near me?

Americans - how does it feeling living under the new Gulag? Is it nice having your books censored? Must be awesome living with such “freedom”.

Kevin Schmidt

Sep. 30, 2010, 1:13 a.m.

Thank God for and thousands of others throughout the world who are doing their part to shine the light on the evil fascists who are bent on taking over the planet and turning everyone into serfs for the upper 1/10th% plutocracy.

Let’s see:  Book burning, assassination of citizens and others, military aggression, police harassment and imprisonment of dissenters, mass incarceration and ghettoization of a chosen minority all add up to fascism.  And why not?

Fascism is the ideal political system . . . .  For a corporate state.

I also don’t believe in hiding truth from the public except where it might put our Nation or our population in possible danger. Like it or not it IS necessary to keep some items private. We just hope and pray that we have picked the correct people to administer this activity correctly. If you don’t think we have then we need to replace them-soon!

$9 billion to maintain existing secrets? Just exactly, how does one spend $9 billion to maintain secrets? Is the salary of those who do the redacting part of this $9 billion? If so, it seems we can save alot of money by eliminating(or almost eliminating) this operation using the example we see in this case to illustrate the nonsecrets that are being protected.
Remember, the Pentagon can’t account for billions of dollars sent to Iraq. Remember, the Pentagon has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to squander hundreds of billions of dollars for no good purpose.
It seems the Pentagon is more of a welfare program for defense contractors and former military officers.

Re: Ron Spainhour

You should read the Top Secret America series by Dana Priest and William Arkin over at the Washington Post.  The short answer is that our secret-keeping has grown ever more expensive over time with only tangential evidence of gain.  This process has accelerated as the collection process has been privatized with the contractors, surprise surprise, costing more than the previous government workers. 

As they note in the series, however, many things are kept secret not because they matter but, apparently, because that is a great way to protect them from budget cuts. 

The Pentagon, oddly enough, has actually been seeking to lower its costs with Defense Secretary Gates and even some uniformed service members, such as the former head of the Marine Corps, complaining about the unnecessary and costly items that they are being expected to buy.  Congress, on the other hand, has consistently ramped up budgets even seeking to buy equipment that the Pentagon has said that they do not want.  So again the issue is political.

justin purchin

Sep. 30, 2010, 2:04 p.m.

Elected officials, military leaders, politicians have joined the so called defense industrial-military-coporations to make fortunes for those involved at
the top.  I worked for North American Aviation when I left the Marines, and we hired Generals, etc right out
of the Pentagon to sell our weapon systems. 
During flight testing at Edwards Air Base the fighter
aircraft were evaluated and the military often did not
get the best weapon system nor price. Political pressures many times determined where our tax money was going to satisfy politicians not our service people.

It was all just a covert game to advance propaganda from the DOD.  It makes the misleading information in the first printing plausibly true, though it really isn’t.

C’mon folks, forget all this ‘secrets’ talk, its their just to satisfy the public at large. The REAL elephant sitting in your living room is ’ legal bribery’.
Yup, it is legal to bribe our elected officials as long as you call the bribe ‘campaign contributions’.
You know it is. I can be bribed, You can be bribed and our elected officials can be bribed.
  Humans can be bribed, we MUST make it illegal !

you defend nothing exept your desires .....
you have no important secrets but silly
the only secret that palestine is under occupatiuon

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