More Book Burning

This time, the Pentagon:

Defense Department officials are negotiating to buy and destroy all 10,000 copies of the first printing of an Afghan war memoir they say contains intelligence secrets, according to two people familiar with the dispute.

The publication of “Operation Dark Heart,” by Anthony A. Shaffer, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, has divided military security reviewers and highlighted the uncertainty about what information poses a genuine threat to security.

Disputes between the government and former intelligence officials over whether their books reveal too much have become commonplace. But veterans of the publishing industry and intelligence agencies could not recall another case in which an agency sought to dispose of a book that had already been printed.

I’d quadruple the price and then print 200,000 more. Seriously, Pentagon? You’re going to buy all the books and that will keep it “secret?”

Wasn’t there a sitcom where some jackass tried to steal every newspaper in town in order to keep someone from seeing something embarrassing?

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55 replies
  1. 1
    beltane says:

    Was this book written in longhand with a quill pen and India ink?

  2. 2
    mark says:

    That was no sitcom. That was the mayor of berkeley

  3. 3
    Rosalita says:

    now they’ve just gone and made it more desirable. pirated copies will be all over the internets. fail.

  4. 4
    JohnR says:

    Wow! And I thought the Regnery operation was a winner. 10,000 copies right off the bat should push it to the top of the NYT best-seller list, right? Man, I’d go for more than just another 20,000 – sounds like they have a blockbuster. Good thing the government isn’t doing this with tax money, eh?

  5. 5
    NonyNony says:

    If the Pentagon succeeds in this what are the odds of a PDF copy being leaked to WikiLeaks within a day?

  6. 6
    El Cid says:

    Well, when Scientologists would buy tons of copies of their shitty lunatic books it would drive up their positions on best-seller lists. It might work the same way for this book.

    [Oops. Sorry JohnR.]

  7. 7
    feebog says:

    The Pentegon never heard of Kindle?

  8. 8
    Violet says:

    The Pentagon is like the Keystone Kops.

  9. 9
    Anne Laurie says:

    Wasn’t there a sitcom where some jackass tried to steal every newspaper in town in order to keep someone from seeing something embarrassing?

    Jaysus, Cole, you’ve just outed yourself as a Golden Girls watcher!

  10. 10
    licensed to kill time says:

    Well, I’d say their cunning little plan just tripped and fell right out of the starting gate. They have just made about a bajillion people aware that this book exists now who previously wouldn’t have had a clue.

  11. 11
    JGabriel says:

    John Cole:

    Wasn’t there a sitcom where some jackass tried to steal every newspaper in town in order to keep someone from seeing something embarrassing?

    Yeah, yeah, it was called Tricky Dick. You’re thinking of the “Pentagon Papers” episode, where Dick tried to buy out all the newspapers so his wife wouldn’t find out he was continuing wars in Asia.

    When that didn’t work, he got her hooked on downers or something, right?

    I liked how they ended it when the ratings went down with the “Resignation” episode, rather than dragging it out to a full 8 years or trying to end it on an upbeat note.

    .

  12. 12
    aimai says:

    Wasn’t “Fortunate Son”, the book about Bush’s cocaine habit, also pulped before hitting the stands?

    aimai

  13. 13
    JGabriel says:

    Too bad they didn’t end That’s My Bush! that way.

    .

  14. 14
    dmsilev says:

    Wasn’t there a sitcom where some jackass tried to steal every newspaper in town in order to keep someone from seeing something embarrassing?

    When I was a TA, there were a few examples of students arriving early to class to steal all the copies of a handout to give themselves an edge over other students. The perps were almost always pre-meds.

    dms

  15. 15
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    So, I’m curious how they are going to burn all the Kindle/Nook/iPad/everything that has an ebook reader with a copy.

    I feel like buying one just to have it.

  16. 16
    Dave L says:

    This reminds me of the Spycatcher affair in the late 1980s, when a retired British intelligence agent published a memoir that British security tried to ban in the UK.

    So he had it published in Australia, British newspapers eventually excerpted it, the book eventually sold more than 2 million copies and made the author a wealthy man.

    So maybe somebody in the Pentagon has a royalty deal with Shaffer?

  17. 17
    Jonathan says:

    Wasn’t there a sitcom where some jackass tried to steal every newspaper in town in order to keep someone from seeing something embarrassing?

    Yes, every sitcom–starting with I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners.

  18. 18
    Chad N Freude says:

    @feebog: Not available for the Kindle at the moment. Now, it probably will never be.

  19. 19
    NonyNony says:

    From the article:

    By the time the D.I.A. objected, however, several dozen copies of the unexpurgated 299-page book had already been sent out to potential reviewers, and some copies found their way to online booksellers. The New York Times was able to buy a copy online late last week.

    The book is already out there. Is the Pentagon going to go out and round up all the review copies?

    After actually reading the article, this sounds like it might be complete incompetence by the Pentagon or that the author has a buddy high up in the DIA who wants his book to be successful or that the author has an enemy high up in the DIA that doesn’t know shit about how to manage controversy and wanted to throw some roadblock up in front of the guy. Because if you want to turn a book into a bestseller, slapping “What the Pentagon didn’t want you to read” on the cover is a pretty good way of going about it.

  20. 20
    eemom says:

    Not to worry…..I hear Julian Assange got hold of a copy. : )

  21. 21
    Persia says:

    @eemom: I was just about to make a WikiLeaks joke.

  22. 22
    carlos the dwarf says:

    Even if the pentagon gets their hands on all the sale copies, getting their hands on all the advance copies is going to be impossible.

  23. 23
    BGinCHI says:

    Our tax dollars hard at work.

    That’s it, we’re cutting your fucking budget.

  24. 24

    book burning is not a good thing. now, composting with books could be a good thing…

  25. 25
    wmd says:

    Wasn’t there a sitcom where some jackass tried to steal every newspaper in town in order to keep someone from seeing something embarrassing?

    Scene in the Milagro Bean Field war where the evil devlopers buy all the crusading liberal attorney’s tabloid papers.

  26. 26
    DJAnyReason says:

    No, no, no, see, this isn’t about censorship. The Pentagon just believes in a looser monetary policy. This is Helicopter Bob Gates to the rescue!

  27. 27
    Ken says:

    Remember how Pope Gregory IX tried to burn all copies of the Necronomicon? It didn’t work, and that was back before the printing press. Nowadays – well, as someone once said, the Internet treats censorship as a network fault and routes around it.

  28. 28
    Corner Stone says:

    Not a sitcom but an epi of The Simpsons where Homer has the crayon removed from his brain and becomes super intelligent. He develops a mathematical proof that denies the existence of God. Which he then hands Flanders.
    As they show Flanders burning the proof so, “no one will ever see that puppy” they show Homer in the background slipping a copy under every car’s window wipers.
    I write all that out because to me it’s exactly like what the Pentagon is attempting to do.

  29. 29
    cleek says:

    they just don’t do COINTEL like they used to.

  30. 30
    LP says:

    “Wasn’t there a sitcom where some jackass tried to steal every newspaper in town in order to keep someone from seeing something embarrassing?”

    There was a substory in the movie Absence of Malice where a character tried stealing all her neighbors papers to keep some embarrassing personal information away from her overly Catholic father. Not quite as funny as the other examples listed above, seeing as how the character then went and killed herself.

    Oops! Spoilers.

  31. 31
    turkey says:

    As Mark mentioned it was the mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates. Apparently the Daily Cal made him angry:

    http://www.dailycal.org/articl.....y_to_theft

  32. 32
    eemom says:

    @Jonathan:

    Yes, every sitcom—starting with I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners.

    As the world’s foremost expert on I Love Lucy, the mother and model of all sitcoms, I can report that the original iteration of the “destroy all copies” meme was much funnier: there was a picture in the newspaper that Lucy didn’t want Ricky to see, so she cut it out of their copy of the paper — then when he runs down to the newsstand to see what’s up, he finds it neatly cut out of all the newspapers there too.

    Until a delivery truck shows up with a fresh stack of newspapers….

  33. 33
    Don SinFalta says:

    @dmsilev: Must have been an organic chem class. I was a student in one where those same sort of pre-med perps were stealing other people’s lab products and replacing them with some unknown other chemical to give themselves a similar edge. I’ve been leery of doctors ever since (and decided not to go to med school myself to avoid spending more years in the company of such delightful colleagues).

  34. 34
    jerry 101 says:

    did you hear the episode of This American Life where they had a story about the case upon which the State Secrets Priviledge is based was bullshit?

    Turns out the case where State Secrets was first asserted was a simple attempt by the Government to avoid having to pay damages to a few families who lost relatives in a plane crash where some top secret equipment was being tested.

    Government asserted that revealing the accident reports would cause secrets regarding the equipment to become available to our enemies.

    Lo and behold, 50-some odd years later, the accident reports were declassified as part of routine housekeeping and the child of one of the victims, looking for information about her father’s death, happens upon the accident report.

    The accident report simply stated that there was top secret equipment on the plane. Not a single word about the nature of the equipment. But a lot of words about how many malfunctions and problems the plane had prior to the fatal flight.

    As a result of the State Secrets assertion, the Air Force avoided having to pay out damages to some widows and children due to its own negligence in using a clearly defective plane. No national security information was at risk.

    And, ever since, the government’s been able to use State Secrets to kill any court case that could cause embarrassment to the government.

  35. 35
    HyperIon says:

    @jerry 101 wrote: did you hear the episode of This American Life where they had a story about the case upon which the State Secrets Priviledge is based was bullshit?

    Garry Wills talks about this in his recent and excellent book, Bomb Power.

    ps
    My format buttons are missing. I see text but no buttons.

  36. 36
    cleek says:

    @HyperIon:
    i see em.
    FF, Windows.

  37. 37
    RSR says:

    there was an incident a ways back where some feeling-slighted group tried (and largely succeeded I think) in pilfering all the copies of UPenn’s Daily Pennsylvanian

    I forget the specifics so I’m not going to try to elaborate and disparage anyone.

  38. 38
    Delia says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    So, I’m curious how they are going to burn all the Kindle/Nook/iPad/everything that has an ebook reader with a copy.

    Um, put out a contract to gather up and kill all the electrons?

  39. 39

    The Vatican is TOTALLY kicking itself for not thinking of this when “The DaVinci Code” came out!

    FAIL!

  40. 40
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Delia: The Verizon-Google Net Neutrality Overlords will inspect every file flowing through the intertubes (and AT&T’s wholly owned personal fiefdom 3G network) and throttle them down to to zero.

  41. 41

    So, I’m curious how they are going to burn all the Kindle/Nook/iPad/everything that has an ebook reader with a copy.

    Don’t you remember when Amazon just went in and “stole” back peoples’ copies of 1984 last year? They don’t need no book barbecue, they just can take them back electronically.

  42. 42
    redactor says:

    Wasn’t there a sitcom where some jackass tried to steal every newspaper in town in order to keep someone from seeing something embarrassing?

    I had no idea how much this idea has been used, and I’m happy to see that the Pentagon is getting its PR ideas from old sitcoms.

    It actually goes back farther than TV, though. There’s a scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington where a bunch of thugs go around Mr. Smith’s hometown mugging little kids and stealing their home-printed papers that tell the story that Edward Arnold doesn’t want told. IIRC, it actually worked.

  43. 43
    Roger Moore says:

    @Don SinFalta:
    I’m incredibly glad I went to a school where that kind of thing wasn’t tolerated. That would be an honor code violation and most likely lead to expulsion. Even if the jackass somehow managed to avoid being expelled, they’d be shunned, which would pretty much guarantee that they’d fail a bunch of their other classes.

  44. 44
    RalfW says:

    Not to be repetitive, but, uhhh, hasn’t the DOD heard of digital copies? At all? Somewhere on the Darpa-net or something?

  45. 45
    tones says:

    Franklin cover up ?
    When Bush [Sr.] had to have the secret service buy up all copies of a newspaper?

  46. 46
    ItAintEazy says:

    Just to add another episode from a show that fits the Censorship Is Comedy trope: King of the Hill where Peggy writes an advice column, and being the know-nothing know-it-all that she is, she sends in a column that tells people the way to get their clothes really clean is to mix bleach with ammonia. Of course, doing that will produce a toxic gas, so Hank gathers up all the town’s bums to steal all the newspapers.

  47. 47
    Uncle Clarence Thomas says:

    I don’t understand why they don’t let President Obama order the Commander in Chief of the military to stop this.

  48. 48

    Wasn’t there a sitcom where some jackass tried to steal every newspaper in town in order to keep someone from seeing something embarrassing?

    Maybe, but it actually happened on my undergraduate campus when I was there. The school paper ran an article that pointed out some irregularities in the way the Student Government was allocating money to organizations, and the SGA President and a bunch of his fraternity brothers yanked all the copies just minutes after they were put out at the stands. They were all arrested, but the charges were dropped when their lawyers pointed out that you can’t really steal something that’s free to the public. They did, however, lose the next election.

  49. 49
    NobodySpecial says:

    @Uncle Clarence Thomas:

    I don’t understand why President Obama doesn’t order the Commander in Chief of the military to stop this.

    Because as a Constitutional scholar, he recognizes that Congress has a valuable role to play in all this, and as soon as he buys off President Snowe and Ben Nelson, we can finally have meaningful legislation that addresses this issue. The book will still be bought by the Pentagon, but in return, they have to double pinky swear to think about repealing DADT.

  50. 50
    Bill Murray says:

    On the live action TV version of the Tick, Captain Liberty gets Bat Manuel to drive her to a printers that is going to publish nude pictures of her. They are going to stop the truck carrying the magazines as it leaves the printers and confiscate all copies of the magazine. Unfortunately, Bat Manuel has to urinate after finishing his big gulp, so they do not stop the truck, the magazine got out

  51. 51
    BGinCHI says:

    @Bill Murray:

    Thank God Patrick Warburton is keeping us safe from terrorism.

  52. 52
    mclaren says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    So, I’m curious how they are going to burn all the Kindle/Nook/iPad/everything that has an ebook reader with a copy.

    Boy, you guys are really clueless. This is the BIG advantage of the Kindle/Nook/iPad/ebook readers.

    Somebody at amazon.com remotely presses a button and, poof! All the text is erased. Gone. Disappeared. As though it never existed.

    Wait till you see what a wonderful world you live in when all the books are electronic.

    “What about that black president who was just assassinated? I can’t find anything in my ebooks about him anymore.”

    “What black president?”

    “Oh, come ON. He used have a whole article on him in our high school textbook.”

    “No he didn’t. Here. See? Nothing.”

    George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. Coming soon to an e-book near you.

  53. 53
    Whispers says:

    It turns out that negotiations between the publishers and the Pentagon were caught on video:

    Video

    The Pentagon were represented by one Osbourne Cox, while the publishers were represented by somebody known only as “Mr. Black.”

  54. 54
    handy says:

    @Whispers:

    OMG I loved that movie.

  55. 55

    […] become the purchaser’s property. You are free to resell the item, loan it out to friends, or burn it if you’d like. The only thing you are restricted from doing is creating additional copies. It is this doctrine […]

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