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Censorship United States

Memory Hole Un-Redacts Redacted DOJ Memo 453

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the poorly-hidden-secrets dept.
DrDNA writes "After a Freedom of Information Act request, the US Justice Department released a study on workplace diversity. However, nearly half of the memo was blacked-out. In what was apparently an incredible goof, it was posted in a PDF format called Image+Text. The folks at The Memory Hole simply removed the image, revealing the redacted text. The redacted text was highly critical of the DOJ's diversity efforts, as the New York Times reports." Folks, if you're going to be sneaky, at least do enough research to make sure you're really being sneaky.
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Memory Hole Un-Redacts Redacted DOJ Memo

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  • by BJZQ8 (644168) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:45PM (#7367442) Homepage Journal
    There was an occasion where this happened before...I believe it was in blacking out some sources on a PDF document...so some enterprising chap removed the blackouts...and voila, there were the "classified" sources. Obviously nobody in government learns from their mistakes.
    • yep, in fact it's actually happened several times before. One time names of undercover agents were revealed. Now we just need to get some improperly redacted FOIA responses about area51, roswell, and all the stuff out there that makes me wear this tinfoil hat all the time.
      • This is a little bit different than the one than you seem to be thinking of. In 2000, The NY Times obtained classified documents about the 1953 coup that brought the Shah of Iran into power. They incorrectly redacted the document to preserve their sources and protect some government operatives before publishing it. (See Iranian Coup Plotters Exposed By PDF File [slashdot.org])

        In this case, the government handed over the document with the naughty bits already blocked out, but didn't release that PDF is more like a collage

        • by Spasemunki (63473) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @06:18PM (#7368121) Homepage

          Actually, I believe it was the participants in the plot to overthrow Premier Mossadeq of Iran that were exposed. The shah was already in power at the time, and was essentially a puppet of the U.S. and Great Britain. Mossadeq was a very popularly elected official who was attempting to regain some control of Iran's destiny- mostly by removing the oil reserves that Britian had bought for a song (actually, they bribed the Shah with a variety of shiny things) from foreign control.

          The U.S., of course, labeled this as 'communism' and began agitating to get Mossadeq dissmissed by the Shah. This included such charming acts of democracy as sending F.D.R's grandson (a CIA operative) out onto the streets of Tehran to hand out $50 bills to get Iranians to gather in front of the Shah's palace and demand Mossadeq's ouster. The Shah capitulated to the West and the "popular" demand, and Mossaeq was driven from office.

          If you're ever curious why a bunch of extremist nuts that not even the Iranians like are running Iran, little anecdotes like this are a good start.

          While Mossadeq is long gone, the PDF screw up may have exposed the families of the Iranian participants in the coup to a great deal of scrutiny if they were still living in Iran. It isn't healthy anywhere to be associated with someone who betrayed their country to a foreign interest, and moreso if you're living in Iran and the foreign government in question was the U.S.

      • by mickwd (196449) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @06:52PM (#7368252)
        Why, if only the US government could have someone come to the US and give a talk on the limitations of some of Adobe's security mechanisms.

        Surely if someone was to do something like that, they would welcome him with open arms, and thank him for his useful expose ? After all, he would be doing them a service, wouldn't he ?
    • Quote 1 from original story:
      > Folks, if you're going to be sneaky, at
      > least do enough research to make sure
      > you're really being sneaky.

      Quote 2 from BJZQ8 reply:
      > Obviously nobody in government learns
      > from their mistakes.

      I wonder... would it be advisable if they remained unwise?

      • Not if someday they put out a blacked-out PDF with war plans of some sort, and end up forewarning the recipients of said war plans and costing lives. Security is security, and if they screw this one up, they're very liable to screw up lots more. "He who is faithful in least is faithful in most."
        • > Not if someday they put out a blacked-out PDF
          > with war plans of some sort, and end up
          > forewarning the recipients of said war plans
          > and costing lives.

          Very good point and one that is irrefutable I might add. You have pointed out the danger but do they see it? You must remember that these are much the same folks that are using Windows for Warships.

          Irregardless, I like your thinking.
    • by airConditionedGypsy (703864) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:52PM (#7367490)
      This does seem to be a common goof. Bruce S. had some commentary in his newsletter a couple of months ago [schneier.com].

    • by epiphani (254981) <<ten.lad> <ta> <inahpipe>> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:53PM (#7367492)
      Arent the people who do this pretty much putting a big white and red target on themselves? I was under the impression, with things like the PATRIOT act, as well as the DMCA, that this type of thing would get you detained without a lawyer.

      Granted, I'm not american, but judging how the country has been going, I'm surprised the people uncensoring these reports arent vanishing without a trace.
      • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:56PM (#7367511) Homepage Journal
        You see, this document was supposed to be released to the public anyway. The redaction was dirty pool, and none of the information was a national secret. It was simply embarrasing to those in power.

        Truth be told the fact it was redacted in the first place is far more disturbing than the actual content that was removed. Especially since its release was the subject of a Freedom of Information Act case.

        • by Wolfrider (856) <kingneutron@@@yahoo...com> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @07:41PM (#7368473) Homepage Journal
          --I wonder if the guy who had to do the blacking-out was Clueful and didn't like/agree with his orders... Maybe he did this intentionally, so it would appear like he was doing his job (CYA) but secretly wanted a way for other people to reconstruct the original document, so he could protect himself.

          (/conspiracy-theory)
        • by bigpat (158134) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:39AM (#7369585)
          "Truth be told the fact it was redacted in the first place is far more disturbing than the actual content that was removed."

          Government representatives are only supposed to keep stuff secret that would give a potential enemy vital information... blacking out anything that doesn't meet this criteria should be a hanging offense. If this report is true, then this is obviously corruption in its most base and basic form.

          Next thing you know we will be trillions of dollars in debt spending half our income on taxes with social security about to collapse and being told that everything will be okay. Oh wait a sec...
    • The rub is that this document was supposed to be for public consumption to start with. It was prepared by an outside firm with no axe to grind, and the DOJ was skewered. The DOJ was so utterly embarrased they threw together this clip-art show.
    • by VValdo (10446) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:00PM (#7367535)
      Yes, it happened a few times...

      ...with a Carnivore review team [cryptome.org]...

      ...with a justice department document [theregister.co.uk]...

      ...and a CIA document containing agent's names [securityfocus.com]


      W

    • Is it just me, or does anyone else wish that the government was forced to enforce its own laws, instead of picking and choosing when and where to do so? There are a truly ridiculous number of laws on the books that are rarely enforced, until the prosecutors feel they have a "good" case to drop the hammer on some poor schmuck.

      The public doesn't care about laws that aren't enforced, so most people break the law every day blissfully unaware. It would seem that laws that nobody cares about need to be done away
      • Is it just me, or does anyone else wish that the government was forced to enforce its own laws, instead of picking and choosing when and where to do so?

        That's one of the ways the government gains power. Selecing when and how to apply a law is a powerful tool. If the government enforced something all the time, or never enforced it, it wouldn't have any power, would it? It would simply be a "robotic" institution.

        You gain power by applying it selectively. Just observe totalitarian systems and governm
      • Personally, I believe that the US Attorney general should be elected, not appointed. He shouldn't work for the president and be subordinate to the will of the president.

        The president would have law enforment capabilites as well. In this way they could investigate each other and we would have little need for special prosecutors.
    • Ya, I remember when this did happen before, it was on some website, and if you hit stop before the whole pdf loaded or something, it didn't load the black parts that blocked out the text. Why don't they scan the papers with it blacked out already?
    • by bobbozzo (622815) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:52PM (#7367781)
      Obviously nobody in government learns from their mistakes.

      You know what they say: "Good enough for government work."

  • Time to bet (Score:2, Funny)

    by FrankoBoy (677614)
    How much time before the DOJ shuts them down ? 5$ on next week.
  • Huh.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by autopr0n (534291) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:46PM (#7367451) Homepage Journal
    1 entry found for Redacted. [reference.com]
    redact
    To draw up or frame (a proclamation, for example).
    To make ready for publication; edit or revise.
    So I guess this could be taken to mean "un-edited", but it still seems like pretty poor word choice to me. Although "Un-redacted" might be a good word to describe slashdot in general.
    • Re:Huh.... (Score:3, Informative)

      yes, the definition in proper English is merely to edit, but in the jargon of the "Intelligence Community" redaction is the process of editing out anything you don't want the world to see.
  • Sneakiness (Score:5, Funny)

    by cperciva (102828) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:47PM (#7367457) Homepage
    Folks, if you're going to be sneaky, at least do enough research to make sure you're really being sneaky.

    Yes, but how do we know this wasn't intentional? Maybe the employee in charge of the redacting wanted that part of the memo to get out, so he deliberately redacted improperly.

    Or maybe that's just what he wants us to think...
    • Re:Sneakiness (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wirelessbuzzers (552513) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:56PM (#7367513)
      Yes, but how do we know this wasn't intentional? Maybe the employee in charge of the redacting wanted that part of the memo to get out, so he deliberately redacted improperly.

      This would be a brilliant idea to spread false information. Instead of just publishing false information, write false information into a PDF and cover it with black rectangles. Not only do you have all the conspiracy theorists believiing whatever BS you wrote, you also have have a defense should anyone find out: it was blacked out, you weren't supposed to read it.
  • by dauvis (631380) * on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:48PM (#7367462)
    If I had information that I didn't want the public to see I would have at least made sure that the information was not accessible by someone who is using a hex editor. I made a PDA program for myself that stored passwords I had for various websites (when you have a different one for each site, it sometimes gets a little hard to keep track of them in your head). However, before I actually started using it, I looked at the binary image of the record or the PDA that was being created. Well, it turned out that the mechanism for "securely" storing the information was just making it inaccessible through the API. In the end, I had to write my own storage mechanism using a standard encryption technique. The moral of this story is, just because you can't get to it doesn't mean it's not there for someone to find.

    Of course the people/person at The Memory Hole will be labeled as a hacker/pirate/terrorist by the justice department.
    • If I had information that I didn't want the public to see I would have at least made sure that the information was not accessible by someone who is using a hex editor.

      Yes I have yet to meet a person on the street who doesn't agree 100% with this statement.
    • If I had information that I didn't want the public to see...

      The people who are replying to this story are some of the most immature idiots with zero knowledge of government. Has NOBODY worked for our legal or justice system? Anybody ever graduate high school civics?

      Information is blacked out and the black marks are LEFT there intentionally to SHOW that something was blacked out. If they wanted to "hide" the information, they would excise it. They don't. They *want* you to know that something was tak

      • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @05:38PM (#7367967)
        Sorry, but you're just wrong. You describe one reason that documents may be redacted in legal circles. However, that is not by far the reason that documents are usually redacted in government as a whole. Documents are often released to comply with FOIA requests that are redacted to the point of saying nothing other than "something happened to somebody on this date, and somebody else said something to somebody", but you can't figure out what they said or who it was too - this isn't generally done to protect the government from libel charges, it's done to avoid releasing embarrassing information.


        Your analogy of a redacted court document to a redacted internal government report doesn't seem to hold up. The judicial system doesn't have any vested interest in preventing embarrasment of parties to law suits beyond the requirements of the law, and the protection of their legally guaranteed privacy, but government _bureaucrats_ have every interest in protecting their superiors, their superiors' superiors, and the elected officials who appointed them.

  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:49PM (#7367465) Homepage
    On the whole measuring diversity is pointless.

    The idea of equal opportunity and equal rights should be that you just hire whoever is better for the job, and hit anyone making this not so with a big stick that has a nail in it. Aiming for exactly 50% one thing or another is no less sexist/racist than only hiring women or only hiring men (etc).
    • I would ordinarily agree. Except that I have seen cases firsthand where given the choice between a black man and a white the white's will take white every time. Granted the blacks will take blacks in a heartbeat over a white. It's not evil, it's human nature.

      If the population of whites and blacks were about equal, there wouldn't be a problem. If we all lived in the same part of town, it wouldn't be a problem. But this is not a perfect world, and those that have take more from those that have not.

      We need

    • by TheMidget (512188) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:23PM (#7367648)
      On the whole measuring diversity is pointless.

      The idea of equal opportunity and equal rights should be that you just hire whoever is better for the job, and hit anyone making this not so with a big stick that has a nail in it.

      Actually, according to the memo, the issue here was not just about diversity, but active discrimation. They were not hiring whoever was better for the job, they were giving better chances to caucasians: certain career opportunities were only offered to caucasians, critical information was withheld from minorities. The playing field was severly skewed against minorities. Yes, in this memo lack of diversity is just a polically correct euphemism for outright racism!

      Aiming for exactly 50% one thing or another is no less sexist/racist than only hiring women or only hiring men (etc).

      It was not about aiming at exactly 50%, but rather about aiming at anything above 0% for the minority employees!

    • I submitted this same story(probobly rejected, unless it comes up as a dupe), and I read some other press reports. Apparently, the problem is that minorities that are hired by the DOJ leave at a higher rate than whites, and that women also leave at a higher rate than men(though not as much as minorities). This would indicate that there is a cultural problem in the DOJ and it is hindering them, especially in serving minority communities. Please understand that no one is suggesting that qualified white males
  • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:50PM (#7367471) Homepage Journal
    That text behind the curtain!

    (Spins handle to fan up flames)

  • What they remove (Score:5, Insightful)

    by big_debacle (413628) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:51PM (#7367474)
    I think it is most interesting to see what the government has decided shouldn't be revealed to the public. Classified sources? Nope. National Security threat? Nope. Poor HR? Yes. Discrimination within the government? Yes.

    Not to incite flames, but this speaks volumes about the Bush administration.
    • Amen.

      And don't think congress isn't looking. Have you been paying attention to the brouhaha between the Senate, the State Department and the CIA over the pre-war intelligence. You have members of the President's own party calling him to the carpet.

      That's beyond power-mongering. Dubya has crossed over to so corrupt he's stupid.

    • Re:What they remove (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jameth (664111) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:59PM (#7367531)
      I agree, and have said such many times.

      However, I wish I knew about this kind of shit from the Clinton administration. Maybe this happened then, too. Maybe not. I honestly haven't a clue what happened then because the Republicans were so obsessed with his dick.
      • Re: What they remove (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Black Parrot (19622) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:18PM (#7367629)


        > However, I wish I knew about this kind of shit from the Clinton administration. Maybe this happened then, too. Maybe not.

        Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. The current Administration is secretive as a knee-jerk reaction to anything, to the point of looking like a petty third world dictatorship. But were other recent Administrations any different, or just less amateurish about it?

        > I honestly haven't a clue what happened then because the Republicans were so obsessed with his dick.

        Actually, they were obsessed with getting anything they could find on him. It just so happens that after 7 years and $40,000,000 all they could find was dick, so that's what they had to settle for.

        You can bet that the Republicans are working harder to find some poop on Howard Dean than they are on finding WMD right now.

        • You can bet that the Republicans are working harder to find some poop on Howard Dean than they are on finding WMD right now.

          The sad thing is, they will probably find something.

          This is why we need a strong third party in this country. Mudslinging between three candidiates just wouldn't work as well. Plus debates would be a lot more interesting.

        • by Cyno (85911)
          That's because there are no WMD.

          Buts its nice how we keep giving them millions to continue their search. Its so blissful living in such a faith based country that we'll pay to make any reality the truth, even if it takes covering up all those annoying little facts and painting over them with distraction after horribly fearsome distraction.

          Its a good thing God exists. If he doesn't there are a lot of delusional people in this country who are prime targets for intesive psychotherapy.
    • ...and next time try convincing people that the blacked-out parts are for national security.
    • by defaultXIX (106977)
      yeah because the government never did anything bad or stupid BEFORE bush was president.
    • Re:What they remove (Score:3, Informative)

      by heli0 (659560)
      "Not to incite flames, but this speaks volumes about the Bush administration."

      The NYT article stated that these documents were edited before release by career lawyers at the DOJ and that Bush-appointed employees of DOJ made no changes at all.

      Mr. Corallo said career lawyers who routinely decide how to censor material before public release made the recommendations about what to delete from the diversity report. He said their recommendations were sent to the office of the deputy attorney general, where it wa

    • It has always been this way. Those in charge of hiring tend to chose those whom they are comfortable with.

      I worked for the government during Clinton's administration and we didn't hire two individuals, that I know of, for reasons of race. The comments were "he's bright enough, but he's black", and "we don't need any Italians or Catholics working here".

      In another department, located across the street, that I worked with, the administrator was a woman and amazingly enough, most of the management positions
  • FIA is a sham (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CausticWindow (632215) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:52PM (#7367480)

    Have you ever read any documents released through the Freedom of Information Act that has any actual substance?

    The act is supposed to protect us against abuse from the government, yet it gives the government full power to remove whatever parts they see fit. Who does the editing? A neutral party? I don't think so.

    • Have you ever read any documents released through the Freedom of Information Act that has any actual substance?

      Well, this one, for starters. Although the substance was their unintentionnally...


    • > Have you ever read any documents released through the Freedom of Information Act that has any actual substance?

      The recent trend under my state's FOIA is to tie the release up in court long enough for the state legislature to pass yet another special exemption saying that the material does not have to be released.

      It has become a complete sham, just like almost everything else the previous generation did to try to enforce open, honest government.

  • by ftobin (48814) * on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:52PM (#7367481) Homepage
    Am I the only person who feels such actions are an atrocity, as they are willful censorships of documents critial of the department? Unless the department can be held accountable for such deeds, these scenarios are going to play out repeatedly.
    • I simply don't understand this at all, and when I think of it then yes it is definitely an atrocity, and it pisses me off.

      I can understand classified documents being edited, and sources being protected, but a review of a government agency that is edited for apparently no reason other than that it was critical of the agency? Hell no that's not ok! The idea in this country is that they (the DOJ) work for *US*, and they are accountable to us. Reviews of public agencies should be public, with the only reaso
  • I loaded up XPDF, highlighted a blacked-out portion, cut and paste, and blammo, I got the text! Way to go.
  • No, honestly. There's more to fear from a tyranny than an enemy, and it's hard to run a Tyranny when your completely incompetent.

    No, that was unfair. They're only mostly incompetent.
    • Well, a *completely* incompetent tyranny would be fine, but a *mostly* incompetent tyranny is actually worse, in my opinion, than a competent tyranny. At least with competence there is some assurance you can know the rules, (even if they are 'don't breathe without first asking permission') but with a partially competent tyranny the rules are what they can enforce. And what they can enforce is a function of the situational competence, which you cannot predict...
  • What makes you think that all of this was unintentional?
  • So, uh, (Score:2, Interesting)

    If you wanted lots of people to read something, what would you do? Release a gov't document that is easily accessible, or release one that is actually easily accessible but appears to be a massive cover up?

    Seems like someone inside the DOJ or possibly someone at KPMG wanted the information to get out, and decided that this was a surefire way of getting to a large audience.
    • You're giving them too much credit. This appears to be simple incompetence. I'm suprised this kind of stuff doesn't happen more often.

      -B
  • Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scrotch (605605) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:55PM (#7367510)
    Sometimes the DOJ will serve Justice better by not being capable of doing what they want to do.

    • > Sometimes the DOJ will serve Justice better by not being capable of doing what they want to do.

      The DOJ should be renamed to Department of Enforcement, since even casual observation of which cases they support and which they oppose will reveal that they aren't interested in what we ordinarily think of as Justice.

  • Ok $2M for 186 pages of survery results, I'll gladly write a couple pages for $10,753 per page. So about a week of work and I won't have to work for 2 years, or according to the graphs in the pdf, 1.75 years if I were a woman, or only 1.5 years if I were black, homey don't play that!
  • by thelizman (304517) <hammerattack AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday November 01, 2003 @03:59PM (#7367532) Homepage
    Memory Hole to be Charged With DMCA Violation

    Reuters 11-01-03

    Just one day after releasing an uncensored version of a Department of Justice report on racial diversity in the work place, operators of the web site "Memory Hole" have been charged with violating terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. According to a complaint filed by the Department of Justice in the 6th Federal Circuit Court, Memory Hole illegally circumvented electronic controls used to protect confidential material.

    On October 31st, the Department of Justice responded to a request under the Freedom of Information Act and released the report. However, several sections of the report were blacked out. Memory Hole discovered that the file format (PDF) used an image laid over the censored text, and simply removed the images and published the memo.

    On Saturday morning, Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the FBI raided the offices of Memory Hole, the home of the publisher, and their ISP and confiscated several computers. The web site has not yet been ordered to be taken down, but a request is pending with Judge Y. H. Barrett Thompson to have the site terminated monday morning.

    Last Updated: Saturday Nov 1 2003 @ 2:50:34 PM

  • by ftobin (48814) * on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:00PM (#7367538) Homepage

    I am distraught that the editors and many posters find it simply amusing that the DOJ was technologically incompetent in this situation, and that that is all there is too it. What frightens me is when they do become competent, and these breakdowns cannot or do not happen, whether it be via more 'perfect' DRM systems, or simply more competent DOJ employees/contractors.

    It is in our interest to have the government flawed when it comes to secrecy.

  • by giblfiz (125533) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:00PM (#7367542)
    I suppose this is better than just changing the font to wingdings, but then SCO probably has a patent on that
  • Do It Right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by spoonist (32012) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:01PM (#7367548) Journal

    If you're going to redact something, do it right.

    Here's how it's done:

    Take document and with an X-Acto knife, cut out words you wish to redact.

    Take resulting full-of-holes document and scan with scanner.

    It's foolproof.

    IF THE WORDS PHYSICALLY ARE NOT THERE, THEY CAN NEVER BE RECOVERED!

    Using a marker might not be foolproof if you miss a spot, or funky reflections, or whatever may result in some parts of the document becoming visible. Give it a try, you'll see what I mean.

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:02PM (#7367557)
    I saw a similar botched attempt to hide info in a document from a networking company. It was intended to illustrate some web-based employee-finding application. Various sensitive information was "X"-ed out.

    But on an older computer there was a delay between rendering the sensitive info and rendering the overlaid "X"s. The "hidden" data was in plain sight for a readable fraction of a second. A quick screen-grab at the right time could easily capture a static image of the employee data on the CEO and other employees listed in the figure.

    Sometimes older computer can be more fun.
  • by Dinosaur Neil (86204) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:02PM (#7367558)

    ...about this is the level of technical competency implied in the organization that is responsible for "justice" in cases involving things like MS, DMCA, DRM and so on. The "holing up in a cabin in Montana" thing is looking more and more appealing...

    • What is this facination with Montana. There are some perfectly desolate spots in the Appalacian mountains. Granted, you will be fighting off hillbillies, but at least you'll be using your cache of firearmes for something.
  • Or maybe it's best that Governments actually *don't* read the manual!!

    Great get out clause for whiste-blowers!

  • I suggest downloading each file completely, and then viewing locally (vs viewing with a plug-in, downloading one page at a time in your browser). Trying to pull down a page at a time as you scroll isn't efficient with PDFs unless you're local (10mbit+):

    IPv4:
    diversityanalysis.pdf [artoo.net]
    doj-attorney-diversity-unredacted.pdf [artoo.net]

    IPv6:
    diversityanalysis.pdf [artoo.net]
    doj-attorney-diversity-unredacted.pdf [artoo.net]
  • Is it possible that minorities feel slighted because they view themselves as being "minorities"?
  • It's a little odd how they chose to edit it. For example, they would sometimes cover the summary sentance of a paragraph, but the meaning of it could still be guessed based up the rest of the paragraph.

    Other places are more logical coverings, though.
  • by HighOrbit (631451) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:19PM (#7367633)
    So, in additon to hiring the same lawyer (Boise), I see the DOJ has hired SCO's encryption team of MIT mathmaticians to handle its super-secret documents. Next they will hire SunnComm to write a document locking program that uses the windows auto-play feature, change their font to Chinese script, and make it black on black background. Shhhh.. don't tell the Russians to hold down the shift-key.

    No wonder they can't catch Bin Laden.
  • ... that thought this was about a buffer overflow bug allowing someone to read classified documents?
  • Always knew that wysiwyg was a stupid people trap.
  • by treat (84622) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @04:35PM (#7367703)
    Notice that the blacked out text is always negative, where positive text is left in. This makes the redacted official version a deliberate deception. The people responsible should be held accountable.
    • by benja (623818)

      While I agree this is "absolutely appaling," re "Notice that the blacked out text is always negative, where positive text is left in:"

      Even complimentary conclusions were deleted, like one that said "attorneys across demographic groups believe that the Department is a good place to work" and another that said "private industry cites DOJ as a trend-setter for diversity." Beyond that, a recommendation that the department should "increase public visibility of diversity issues," was kept out of the public r

  • Folks, if you're going to be sneaky, at least do enough research to make sure you're really being sneaky.

    Reminds me of my first and only attempt at forgery. Got a detention in 4th grade, notice of which had to be signed by my parents. I made a copy of the detention notice, pasted my dad's signature on the bottom, and made a copy of that. All went well and the teacher bought it, but I left the original in the copying machine which my parents naturally found later that day.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @07:07PM (#7368312)
    As in any other cases simplicity and the appearance of simplicity are two entierly different things. The seeming simplicity many tools in the Windows-world offer is fake. As soon as you leave the narrow focus of what the designers expected the tool to be used for, many things break, including in many cases security.

    It is far better to have a hard to use tool (e.g. commandline, although many people find that actually easier to use) that does not surprise you than a seemingly easy to use tool that does (sometimes massively) surprise you. This is no new wisdom. It applies everywhere in engineering. Some parts of the software industry are still not aware of this sound engineering principle.

    Of course there is a second issue here: the users that are by now so uneducated about the nature of the tools they use that severe mistakes become likely. It is not that the users are less sophisticated than in the past (at least I hope so), but the tools they work with have become massicely more complex and many people have not realy noticed and therefore are not able to anticipate any pitfalls.

    To put ist short, if they wanted to keep the redacted stuff confidential they should at least have used a tool they understand, like printed paper, or they should have consulted an expert first. This was a highly unprofessional mistake.

  • by t4b00 (715501) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @08:34PM (#7368667)
    Considering the situation with the DMCA, Diebold, Patriot Act, Victory Act, Enron, SCO, Microsoft, RIAA, MPAA, Ashcroft and Generals on a Crusade isn't bad enough? now the Department of Justice gets caught trying to cover some back side.

    Now remember, all of these guys are just looking out for the best interests of the "American People." after all they don't want to upset an already BAD situation by adding fuel to the fire, right? That is why it is in the interest of national security.(tell me it aint so)

    at risk of being moded redundant I will repeat in my own words what I heard earlier on this subject..."Next time I see a document with black magic marker allover it,go ahead, TRY and convince me it is in the "interest of national security"

    Maybe they are right, in thinking if the "American People" knew about HALF of the things that probably go on daily, they would probably revolt, which does, sadly give weight to their arguement.

    "In the interest of national security we cannot tell you how corupt the system is because it would be disruptive TO that system (and your security)."

    "Totam Spem Relinquite Hunc Locum Adeuntes"

    indeed.
  • by joebeone (620917) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @08:38PM (#7368678) Homepage
    I don't think the slashdot poster was fully able to highlight the gravity of this:

    http://politechbot.com/pipermail/politech/2003-O ct ober/000143.html

    Subject: DoJ uses Word's "Highlight" tool to redact, doesn't work

    Hi Declan, Dave:

    A HARD LESSON TO LEARN: don't use Microsoft Word's "Highlight tool"
    with the color set to black to redact documents--one can still copy
    and paste "highlighted" text!

    The really interesting part about this DoJ case is reading the
    un-redacted document and seeing what was "blacked out" under FOIA
    exemptions (un-redacted document is here:
    http://www.thememoryhole.org/feds/doj-attor ney-div ersity-unredacted.pdf
    ).

    I wonder how many other electronic FOIA-released documents are out
    there where a simple copy and paste will reveal redactions?

    Pertinent paragraph:

    "It turns out the [DoJ's] report began its life as a Microsoft Word
    document, and whoever was in charge of sanitizing it for public
    release did so by using Word's highlight tool, with the highlight
    color set to black, according to an analysis by Tim Sullivan, CEO of
    activePDF, a maker of server-side PDF tools. The simple and convenient
    technique would have been perfectly effective had the end product been
    a printed document, but it was all but useless for an electronic one."

    Joe

    ---
    http://www.securityfocus.com/news/7272

    Justice e-censorship gaffe sparks controversy

    By Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus Oct 22 2003 3:46PM

    A government watchdog group Wednesday accused the Justice Department
    of improperly censoring portions of a key report on internal workplace
    diversity, after online activists successfully unmasked the
    blacked-out portions of an electronic copy of the document.

    The 186-page report was released to the public under the Freedom of
    Information Act last week and posted to Justice Department's website
    in Adobe's "Portable Document File" (PDF) format. But the department
    blacked out vast portions of the document's text, citing an exemption
    to FOIA that permits agencies to keep internal policy deliberations
    private.

    The text didn't stay concealed for long. On Tuesday a website called
    the Memory Hole, dedicated to preserving endangered documents,
    published a complete version of the report, with the opaque black
    rectangles that once covered half of it completely removed. Memory
    Hole publisher Russ Kick won't say how he unmasked it, but
    experimentation shows that the concealed text could be selected and
    copied using nothing more than Adobe's free Acrobat Reader. Once
    copied, the text is easily pasted into another document and read.

    It turns out the report began its life as a Microsoft Word document,
    and whoever was in charge of sanitizing it for public release did so
    by using Word's highlight tool, with the highlight color set to black,
    according to an analysis by Tim Sullivan, CEO of activePDF, a maker of
    server-side PDF tools. The simple and convenient technique would have
    been perfectly effective had the end product been a printed document,
    but it was all but useless for an electronic one. "Using Acrobat, I'm
    actually able to move the black boxes around," says Sullivan. "The
    text is still there." ...
  • by rworne (538610) on Saturday November 01, 2003 @09:08PM (#7368817) Homepage
    When viewing the report supplied by Memory Hole under Adobe Reader 6.0 the redacted parts in yellow show up and all is fine.

    Under Preview.app (OS X's PDF viewer, Panther's in my case), all the yellow sections are removed.

    It's a conspiracy I tell you!

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