October 1, 2010

St. Martin’s explains censorship of Operation Dark Heart


Thomas Dunne, publisher of the Macmillan imprint St. Martin’s Press has issued an “Important Letter” explaining the censorship of its book Operation Dark Heart by Anthony Shaffer. According to the Important Letter, the situation with the book is indeed a textbook example of government-pressured censorship and sniveling compliance by a publisher and maybe an author.

Or no wait — it’s not. As Dunne’s Important Letter put it:

We have been receiving letters of concern that we changed the text due to government censorship, and that the government “burned” the books from our initial printing.  The true facts are that the government bought the first printing in its entirety and we destroyed and recycled those copies at their request.

Get that? The book was NOT burned. It was, er, destroyed another way … by the publisher … at the government’s direction ….

Then there’s the fact that the second printing of the book is going to be, well, a little different than the first printing (you know, the one that wasn’t burned). According to Dunne:

… the Department of Defense contacted us to express its concern that our publication of Operation Dark Heart could cause damage to U.S. national security. This was unexpected, since we knew the author, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer, had worked closely with the Department of the Army, and had made a number of changes to the text, after which it passed the Army’s operational security review. However, the Department of Defense, and the Defense Intelligence Agency in particular, insisted that the Army’s review was insufficient. Thereafter, Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer met with the Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other interested U.S. intelligence agencies to review changes and redactions that they demanded he make to his book. Because Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer is a security professional himself, with some twenty-five years of experience, we were confident then, and remain confident now, that he had not revealed anything in his book that could damage our national security, harm our troops, or harm U.S. military intelligence efforts or assets. However, based on the discussions our author had with the government, he requested that we incorporate some of the government’s changes into a revised edition of his book while redacting other text he was told was classified, though he disagreed with that assessment.

Well, of course that’s not censorship. It’s just your common, everyday summoning from the Department of Defense and the Defense Intelligence Agency, calling you in for, you know, a meeting, after which you, immediately cut a bunch of stuff from your book that you know is fine. And after that, explains the Important Letter, St. Martin’s decided not to challenge the legality of the non-censorship or raise any freedom of speech issues “Because we support our author fully …”

Imagine if they hadn’t!

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives