ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
The author of a new war memoir thinks he'll sell at least 10,000 copies of his book even before it's released. Anthony Shaffer wrote a firsthand account of his experiences as an intelligence operative in Afghanistan in 2003. To keep the book off the shelves, the Pentagon has offered to buy the whole print run.
NPR's Tom Gjelten has the story.
TOM GJELTEN: Tony Shaffer was a major in the Army Reserve but worked as a civilian in Afghanistan for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA. His mission: to gather intelligence on al-Qaida and the Taliban. He acknowledges in his book that he operated in some unorthodox ways, which seems to make for a good story.
At the Army's request, Shaffer is not speaking to the press, so we called his attorney, Mark Zaid.
Mr. MARK ZAID (Attorney): Tony is one of those types of officers who, it's black or white. There's no gray. Either you love him or you hate him. You either think he is the best thing you've ever seen, or you don't want anything to do with him.
GJELTEN: As an intelligence officer handling classified material, Shaffer was obligated to clear anything he wrote with U.S. authorities. The question is which ones? Zaid says Shaffer followed procedure by getting his own agency, the Army, to approve his manuscript, but he did not pass it by the DIA, which the Pentagon says he should have.
Mr. ZAID: In or around May of this year, we started to get wind that DIA wanted to see the manuscript because they had never been given an opportunity to review it, and they felt that they were entitled to.
GJELTEN: So DIA officers took a look at it. The Pentagon won't say what they didn't like, but The New York Times reports that Shaffer named some U.S. intelligence officers working with him and described secret operations. By this time, the books were already printed and ready to be shipped. So the Pentagon went straight to the publisher, St. Martin's Press, with an unusual offer. That's according to Joe Rinaldi, the publicity director there.
Mr. JOE RINALDI (Publicity Director, St. Martin's Press): After expressing their serious concerns that passages in the book could harm U.S. national security interests, they offered to purchase our first print inventory. And we agreed to sell the first printing to them at a price that will cover our costs.
GJELTEN: The Pentagon won't confirm this offer. It only says it's working with the publisher and Shaffer, quote, "to address the problem."
There is now a redacted version of Shaffer's book, which St. Martin's says it plans to publish. But the Pentagon won't promise it'll let even the second version go ahead.
A twist here is that Tony Shaffer has had a run-in with the DIA before. In 2003, the agency disputed his claim that a secret intelligence unit where he worked uncovered information about the 9/11 hijackers before the attacks, but did not share it.
Attorney Mark Zaid thinks the DIA sees this as payback for that episode.
Mr. ZAID: And I think any action that the Department of Defense may take, I'm going to see it as nothing but retaliation against Tony Shaffer - particularly arising from his past history with DIA - and it will be met with a vigorous defense.
GJELTEN: It's not actually clear what the Pentagon could do to stop the publication of a declassified version of Shaffer's book. For his part, Joe Rinaldi, the St. Martin's publicist, is not unhappy that Shaffer and his book are in the news.
Mr. RINALDI: Based on the history of publishing, whenever there's this kind of an explosive news story, it certainly gets everyone's attention.
GJELTEN: The new version of Shaffer's book is due to go on sale in two weeks.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.