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Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan -- and the Path to Victory Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 24, 2010

243 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A nonfiction book that frequently reads like an adventure novel, this account of the author’s intelligence operations in post-9/11 Afghanistan should definitely strike a chord with readers. Shaffer was an intelligence operative from an early age, joining army counterintelligence in the early 1980s at the age of 19. By 1991, he was running HUMINT, the army’s clandestine human-intelligence program. Prior to 2001, he was working on an operation called Able Danger, which, according Shaffer, uncovered some of the 9/11 terrorists a full year before the attacks, although—again, according to Shaffer—the government blocked attempts to act upon the information. He saw the same sort of thing happen again in Afghanistan, when red tape and inept policies hindered efforts to fight the Taliban. This is almost two books in one: a rousing chronicle of the author’s experiences on foreign soil and an examination of a bloated bureaucracy that is in desperate need of retooling. Shaffer adopts a mostly objective tone, although there are moments when his personal views sneak through (the phrase “Bush administration lunacy,” for example). Although no coauthor is listed, the book reads like it was transcribed from taped interviews (see the occasional oddly constructed paragraph where it looks like someone stuck in parenthetical explanations of things the author was saying). All in all, a fascinating, eye-opening book. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Anthony Shaffer has written a gripping account, filled with amazing detail, of an otherwise secret world. Shaffer has the instincts of a thriller writer and the knowledge and perspective of the professional insider. Operation Dark Heart is a fascinating page-turner.”

-- Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers

“A fascinating look into the highly complex world of modern combat, clandestine intelligence and bureaucrats run amok. Tony Shaffer walks and runs us through a critical time in the history in the war in Afghanistan. From the opening to the closing, you are on the edge of your seat. Tony is, in all aspects, the real Jack Bauer - but with an intellect.”

--Dr. Christopher M. Lehman, former Special Assistant to President Reagan, National Security Counsel

“[Operation Dark Heart] takes you inside the espionage world, a labyrinth of secret agencies that do not like to share secrets."
--Army Times

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (September 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031260369X
  • ASIN: B0052HKOGG
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (243 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #910,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lt. Col. Anthony (Tony) Shaffer (Ret) is a Senior Fellow with both the London Center for Policy Research and the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (CADS), and a consultant.

He is a senior operations officer and Military Operations Training Course (MOTC) graduate with over 30 years of field experience. He has held numerous leadership positions, including as commander of Operating Base (OB) Alpha (Defense Intelligence) and as directing Task Force STRATUS IVY - a unit that conducted cutting edge technology and information operations from the mid 90s through the turn of the century. He has played key roles in multiple interagency operations that were conducted with the NSA, CIA and FBI.

Lt. Col. Shaffer has led operations from the tactical level, such as defense source operations to protect REFORGER exercises in the 1980s to strategic level, such as STRATUS IVY's direct support mission for Operation ABLE DANGER in the late 1990s. Prior to the consolidation of all Department of Defense (DoD) Human Intelligence resources and operations under DIA in 1995, he was the chief of Army's controlled HUMINT program - overseeing Army Intelligence and Security Command's global controlled HUMINT efforts. He was responsible for combining cutting-edge technology with traditional military operations and intelligence collection to maximize the Department of Defense's ability to detect, monitor and neutralize emerging threats.

Lt. Col. Shaffer has appeared on Fox News, CNN, and other major TV and radio programs, and has been interviewed by The New York Times and other publications on pre-9/11 operations focused on Al Qaeda. He has testified before Congress on issues relating to 9/11 intelligence and operational failures.

Lt. Col. Shaffer was awarded the Bronze Star for the first of his two combat tours to Afghanistan. He was credited for conducting highly complex operational support to NSA, and for playing a critical role in breaking the back of a Taliban counteroffensive in the fall of 2003. In addition, he was called back to active duty for DESERT STORM/DESERT SHIELD in 1991 to perform special support to Army Intelligence. He has been deployed to Thailand, Germany and New Zealand to support DoD efforts as an active duty member of the Army in addition to his Afghanistan experience.

Lt. Col. Shaffer is a 1986 graduate of Wright State University, where he was awarded a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies who retired from the Army in July 2011, after 30 and a half years of service.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

768 of 861 people found the following review helpful By ickytips on September 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm not angry at Amazon, nor am I angry with the author or his book, and that's why I gave this item a perfect, five-star rating; they don't provide a rating scale that can accurately manifest my disappointment in the situation that has been forced upon us--each and every one of us who ordered this book with the belief that we were going to receive it, only to have the rug torn out from under us. A cover-up set in motion by a nation who denounces censorship, praises freedom of speech, and who won't hesitate to annihilate any person or entity daring enough to threaten our "god given" rights; daring enough to go toe-to-toe with the most powerful, morally bankrupt nation on this planet (but hey, at least we're not Communists!).

Our country, the land of the "free," home of the brave, where democracy is more of a buzzword than a legitimate political system--unless you're voting for America's newest idol, model, or celebrity dance duo.

But, I digress... I searched high and low for this book. Every possible website you could think of; some saying that the item wasn't in stock, some that it was available for pre-order and would be delivered 23 December, 2010, still others not even mentioning that it's not available until after you purchased it. The latter is what I dealt with.

I found the book on a site that shall remain nameless, and it was the 1st edition, uncensored print. It was in stock for $17.98, so I promptly placed my order. The following day I checked my order status, ecstatic that I was lucky enough to snag a copy of this now infamous book, only to find that my order was still being "processed." After checking the status of the item itself, I was deflated when I saw that it was no longer available, with an availability date of 24 September, 2010.
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257 of 303 people found the following review helpful By Steve Frasher on September 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Please DO NOT send this item unless it is the OriginalOperation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan -- and The Path to Victoryl -as written version. I am not interested in obtaining a "corrected" version
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By reconrob on October 13, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As most people have pointed out, this version of the book is almost un-readable. I probably would have given it at least 3 or 4 star in the non-redacted version, but the author would have been better off re-editing the book so that it flowed better. And a big "thumbs-down" to Amazon for not being up-front with the version of this book that they put out.
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389 of 473 people found the following review helpful By Roger J. Watson on September 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I, too, do NOT want to buy this book in its censored (redacted) version. Who is the Defense Dept to tell us (AMERICAN CITIZENS) what books we CANNOT have? They had the ability to review this book with both the author and his publisher BEFORE it was printed. Where, in the Defense budget, does it allow the Pentagon to purchase ALL 10,000 copies of a press run? What will they do, distribute them to the troops or burn them all? The US government sure looks fool-hardy and desperate in its attempt to abort FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. If St. Martin's Press is smart, it will sell the books to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and have them all shipped to his home. Then, go ahead and PRINT SOME MORE for the rest of us. The American people deserve to see what's in this book for themselves!
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90 of 109 people found the following review helpful By James Evan Pilato on September 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
U.S. wants to buy 1st printing of reservist's memoir

By Peter Finn and Greg Miller
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 9, 2010; 11:28 PM

The Defense Department is attempting to buy the entire first printing - 10,000 copies - of a memoir by a controversial former Defense Intelligence Agency officer so that the book can be destroyed, according to military and other sources.

"Operation Dark Heart," which was scheduled to be published this month by St. Martin's Press, recounts the adventures and frustrations of an Army reservist, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who served in Afghanistan in 2003, a moment when the attention of Washington and the military had shifted to Iraq.
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57 of 71 people found the following review helpful By jzxmkw on September 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I, too, will only purchase the non-redacted version of this book. This is the only version that Amazon, or any other bookstore should sell.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JT on November 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I knew about the DOD edits but decided to give this book a shot regardless. I respect this man's service and sacrifice; however, there are issues. Mainly, and I apologize if somebody else already captured this, he said he knew ahead of his first meeting with LTG Barno that Barno had fought in the 1989 Urgent Fury mission as a ranger company commander. Urgent Fury was in 1983. Nor would Barno say something like "I'm a MacArthur type of commander". Not his style, at least not when he was a brigade commander. Also, readers of military history might get bored with his descriptions of routing military stuff (helicopter flights; imagining troops going through troop leading procedures; etc.) I was looking for an entertaining read and this book didn't.
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73 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Rhys M. Blavier on September 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I first heard that the Pentagon was wanting to buy up every copy of the first printing of this book and THEN force changes in subsequent editions, I was simply stunned that a part of the American government would want or even be permitted to, essentially, organize a government sponsored book burning. I immediately came here to Amazon to buy a copy, although it is being listed as "Out of Stock". Now, I can only hope that Amazon will serve its customers needs rather than assisting our government to censor this book and send us our copies as ordered and paid for. If I can only get a censored copy, I will not accept it and will return it to Amazon for a full refund. That would cost them more than they would make from selling the first printing to us. I will also have to seriously reevaluate my use of Amazon for future book purchases.

Amazon, PLEASE do NOT faciliate our government's continued decline away from transparency and the First Amendment.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas
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