Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Classified" Information Contained in We Meant Well - It's a Slam Dunk, Baby!

Days before Peter Van Buren's book hit the bookstores, the Public Affairs shop of the State Department wrote to Peter Van Buren's publishers requesting some redactions of "classified" information contained in the book under the guise of protecting U.S. national security interests.  The publisher declined and the book is currently on sale without those redactions.

So far, the State Department had the good sense not/not to buy all copies of Mr. Van Buren's book and make a bonfire out of them.

I have already read the book when I learned of the requested redactions.  I was, of course, curious which parts of what I was reading was considered "classified" material. I can now tell you which parts of the book the State Department wanted redacted. Three small sections of the book were deemed too sensitive that if published could "harm U.S. national security interest."

Below are screen grabs from the State Department/PA letter to the publisher, and right below each is the passage from the book, We Meant Well, released last September 27. The requested redactions are in bold and highlighted in yellow:


screen grab from State/PA letter to WMW publisher

Actual passage from WMW, published on September 27:
Tall and lanky, he had worked in Afghanistan— everyone of his generation had— but also in Mogadishu and some places I won’t even type the names of.


screen grab from State/PA letter to WMW publisher

Actual passage from WMW, published on September 27:
The Agency was quiet in Iraq because, as I said, this wasn’t their war. They had nailed their biggest coup early on, still said to be controlling most of the budget for Iraqi intelligence. To them, holding the money meant that they were running the Iraqis though, as we knew, spending money in Iraq did not always mean control and sometimes the project turned and ran you.


screen grab from State/PA letter to WMW publisher

Actual passage in WMW, published on September 27:
Now, a cynic might point out that years had passed since we’d nabbed Saddam and that we hanged him in 2006 about a mile from where we sat,but this wasn’t the night for it and we all took a moment to marvel at the plates and ask the person next to us what, if the room could talk, he thought it might say. Had Saddam deflowered virgins here, planned the invasion of Kuwait, and maybe met with al Qaeda right at this table, who knew? It was, of course, equally possible that in this room Saddam had met his Agency handlers in 1983 to discuss the war against Iran or receive info from Don Rumsfeld about the new weapons he was getting from the United States to kill Persians and Kurds.

So there you go -- a total of some 30 words that, as they've now been published, are  obviously, clearly and irrevocably harmful to U.S. national security interest.

Mogadishu is a classified item, Afghanistan is not -- who knew? 

The question is -- would this hold up in court?

Mr. Van Buren has posted in his blog a copy of the letter sent by Dana Shell Smith, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (PDAS) of the Bureau of Public Affairs to the book publisher, Macmillan. Below is a copy of that letter, as well as the letter sent by AFSA to Ms. Smith, inquiring about official regulations and policies governing the notification of third parties on the alleged disclosure of classified information. It appears that the PA PDAS wrote to Macmillan about the alleged disclosure but never notified the employee/author of the book of its concerns prior to contacting the publisher. 

Ms. Smith had a stint as senior advisor to the Director General of the Foreign Service, so she should know these rules like the back of her hands. We hope to see her response to AFSA on this matter, or over at the Foreign Service Grievance Board or wherever else this case ends up.

"Classified" Info Allegedly Included in Peter Van Buren's book, We Meant Well


Anonymous said...

See, the issue here is that Mr. van Buren's book focuses on the failures of the State Department, when in fact we all know how successful the State Department's efforts were in Iraq. And, someday, the State Department is going to share those successes with the public. I'm sure of it. The reason they're not sharing them now can't be because they don't exist, but because they're so big and important the average American reader couldn't possible comprehend them all at once.

rainmaker said...

What a tribal insight! How American!

Andre Davis said...

Thinking that people cannot comprehend things and that they needed to be protected from the truth is pathetic. Who deemed the public stupid? Just because some can't comprehend does not mean all of use cannot.

The only thing that is not comprehensible are the actions of the United States, they do not disclose information because they know the people would rise up against their h anus ways.

Our Government are a bunch of lying ass hats and act the exact same as the people we supposedly stop.


spektrum said...

" The reason they're not sharing them now can't be because they don't exist, but because they're so big and important the average American reader couldn't possible comprehend them all at once."

I would counter by saying that you are grossly underestimating the average American's intelligence. If not even insulting it. It is exactly that attitude that is the problem with the way that America is run. The people in power think that they should just do things in our stead because we can't possibly comprehend the intricacies of foreign policy. I think that you would be surprised at what the average American knows about his country.

g.g.white said...

what is the success of the state department in Iraq? I can not find any besides 100.000 thousands of civilians killed in a war that was nothing but about oil. That prooved that the USA officials have always lied about the reasons of this war like the lied about vietnam, korea, el salvador...

Robert Mendez said...

I wonder if it includes the sale of biological weapons we sent with the blessing of then CIA chief, G.H.W. Bush? Here is the article and citation: "From Associated Press, Austin-American Statesman, 11/10/2002 P. F7. "In 1980s, U.S. shipped pathogens to Baghdad" and "When Iraq launched a long, brutal war against Iran in 1980, the Reagan administration provided Saddam's regime with arms, intelligence, money and support." (read G.H.W. Bush) "According to records from the Centers for Disease Contol and prevention, the Senate Banking Committee and U.N. weapons inspectors, these shipments included: Anthrax: Iraq admitted making 2,200 gallons of anthrax spores and putting some of them into weapons. The American Type Culture Collection, a biological samples repository in Manassas, VA, sent two shipments of anthrax to Iraq in the 1980's. Three strains were in a May 1986 shipment sent to the University of Baghdad, which U.N. inspectors later linked to Iraq's biological weapons program. A 1988 shipment from ATCC to Iraq also included four anthrax strains. ATCC sent six strains of Clostridium botulinum to the University of Baghdad in the May 1986 shipment. ATCC sent three strains of Clostridium perfringens to the University of Baghdad in the May 1986 shipment and another three strains in the 1988 shipment?"

beachdog67 said...

The inability of some folks to recognize sarcasm when it spits in their eye never ceases to amaze me.
FWIW "tribe", I got it.

Jaga Moriarty said...

I hope you find some tribe which is familiar with term 'irony'
sorry to write in your name
dear Americans commenting - findingmytribe WAS NOT SERIOUS
sorry for eventual mistakes but english is not my mother's tounge
greetings from Poland very funny and IRONIC country in middle-east europe (on the right side of germany)

Anonymous said...

Thanks to beachdog and Jaga. Made my year.