Tuesday, October 5, 2010


BEHIND THE CENSORSHIP OF OPERATION DARK HEART By censoring Anthony Shaffer's new book "Operation Dark Heart" even thoughuncensored review copies are already available in the public domain, theDepartment of Defense has produced a genuinely unique product: arevealing snapshot of the way that the Obama Administration classifiesnational security information in 2010.

With both versions before them, readers can see for themselves exactlywhat the Pentagon classifiers wanted to withhold, and can judge forthemselves whether the secrecy they tried to impose can be justified onvalid national security grounds. In the majority of instances, theresults of such an inspection seem disappointing, if not very surprising,and they tend to confirm the most skeptical view of the operation of theclassification system.

The most commonly repeated "redaction" in Operation Dark Heart is theauthor's cover name, "Christopher Stryker," that he used while serving inAfghanistan. Probably the second most common redactions are references tothe National Security Agency, its heaquarters location at Fort Meade, Maryland, the familiar abbreviation SIGINT (referring to "signalsintelligence"), and offhand remarks like "Guys on phones were always greatsources of intel," which is blacked out on the bottom of page 56.

Also frequently redacted are mentions of the term TAREX or "TargetExploitation," referring to intelligence collection gathered at asensitive site, and all references to low-profile organizations such asthe Air Force Special Activities Center and the Joint Special OperationsCommand, as well as to foreign intelligence partners such as New Zealand. Task Force 121 gets renamed Task Force 1099.

The code name Copper Green, referring to an "enhanced" interrogation program, is deleted.

Perhaps 10% of the redacted passages do have some conceivable  , 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, has been censored.

Many other redactions are extremely tenuous. The name of character actor Ned Beatty is not properly classified in any known universe, yet it  blacked out on page 15 of the book. (It still appears intact in the Index!) 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.

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