Army sets new policy for redacted documents

Six months after the Defense Department inadvertently exposed classified data in an Adobe Portable Document Format memo, a senior Army official said an investigation has concluded that human error was to blame for the slip-up.

The memo, which exposed blocks of classified information that had been redacted, included details of the March 4 shooting death of Nicola Calipari, an Italian special agent in Baghdad, Iraq. The redacted information was discovered by an Italian blogger who copied and pasted the classified text into another file format.

Army Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, strategic effects director for Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I), said the investigation into the April 30 mishap found that certain individuals 'misunderstood the capability of the Adobe program.

'It was believed that once a document was converted to a PDF, it would not be able to be reversed [to] allow the information to be viewed,' Boylan said. 'Processes have been put into place to ensure that type of inadvertent release of information does not occur in the future.'
Boylan added that in the future, documents would be redacted physically and then scanned so that classified information does not get into the wrong hands.

The Army may have learned a lesson, but a similar gaffe was made recently in an online U.N. report on the assassination of the prime minister of Lebanon.

That report, summarizing the investigation by Detlev Mehlis, the German prosecutor heading up the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission into the February assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was presented Oct. 20 to the U.N. Security Council. It did not identify specific suspects by name but when the electronic document was posted online, readers quickly discovered that the 'track changes' function of the Microsoft Word file could be enabled'revealing any revisions made to the document.

Joe Fantuzzi, president and CEO of Workshare Inc., a San Francisco company that provides document security tools, said there are software products on the market that will remove hidden data, such as editing changes to documents, before they are e-mailed, Fantuzzi said. There also are tools that will alert users to the presence of hidden information in documents they receive, he said.

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