Sunday, September 19, 2010

Your Tax Dollars At Work, Literary Edition

I’ve been hearing about this on the interwebs for the past two weeks but I didn't think it was true. But now that it’s in the New York Times, well, I guess we are given to believe that it is:
WASHINGTON — 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. The Defense Department is buying and destroying the entire uncensored first printing of “Operation Dark Heart,” by Anthony Shaffer, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, in the name of protecting national security.

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 a writer, I think this is sheer genius. Now you, too, can zoom to the top of the bestseller list by compiling some common knowledge -- hey, what are those 11 secret herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken? -- and wait for someone to buy up all the copies to keep a lid on things. Oh, wait, looks like only America’s security agencies are dumb enough to fall for that one.

What’s really stupid is that the Army already approved the book for publication way back in January. But then two months ago the Defense Intelligence Agency and NSA decided the book contained "sensitive" information (some of it common knowledge already readily available) -- well after copies had already been made available to reviewers and book clubs. And now by trying to buy up every copy, they’ve called attention to a book that probably would have gone ignored by most folks. Now, says the Times, uncensored copies of the book are going for $2,000 on eBay.

Pretty big screw-up if you ask me. Will anyone get fired? Nah. That's not how we do things.