Stupid Secrets

| Mon Sep. 20, 2010 10:20 AM EDT

Last week, Dan told you about Operation Dark Heart, a new book by former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Anthony Shaffer:

The book was originally cleared by army reviewers, who vetted the manuscript to ensure it didn't reveal national security secrets. It went to press, was sent to reviewers, and was even available for a short time online. Now your best best of getting a copy may be to bid for the one some opportunist put up on Ebay—starting bid, $500 $1000. That's because the Pentagon is now negotiating with Shaffer's publisher to purchase all 10,000 copies of the first print run with the intention of destroying them. It turns out the book may indeed contain a significant amount of sensitive material. Once the DIA looked over the book, and shared it with other intelligence agencies, "200 passages suspected of containing classified information" were discovered "setting off a scramble by Pentagon officials to stop the book’s distribution," according to the Times.

Unfortunately for the Pentagon, some review copies of the book did get out, and the New York Times got one of them. So when the Times' Scott Shane got the new (more redacted) version, it was a piece of cake for him to produce a story that made the government's censorship rules look really, really dumb:

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.

Here are some more secrets the government is trying to protect by buying 10,000 books with your tax dollars:

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."

As Starbuck notes, there is really only one appropriate response to this: facepalm.