I don't know how many of you know about Nicola Calipari, the Italian intelligence
agent killed in Iraq by US soldiers as he was escorting to the airport a recently-freed
hostage, the journalist Giuliana Sgrena.
I won't get into the details of that night here, but I've just read an article on the
CNN website about a classified US report that tells the shooters' side of the story.
The report, as befits any description of operations in a high-risk area, passed
under the censors' scissors before being published in the Army web site. Many parts
were blanked out, including the names of the soldiers involved and some tactical
details about the setup of a checkpoint.
Shortly after publication, an unclassified version started making the rounds.
Italian newspapers talked about a hacker that had somehow decrypted the report.
According to the CNN
The classified version of the U.S. report appeared on the Internet because
of a computer error, officials said. CNN is not reporting any details that would
risk the security and privacy of U.S. and Italian personnel, including their names.
CNN is telling only half of the story. It seems that it was neither a web site blunder (publishing unclassified.doc instead of
classified.doc) nor a high-profile hack of the Army web site.
Quite simply, the unnamed censor used Adobe Acrobat to draw black rectangles over the
classified parts, without realizing that the box was drawn on a different layer,
and the blanked text was still there, underneath the rectangle. A simple select/copy/paste
to a different text editor or word processor made the original report readable in all
The .pdf file was quickly yanked from the web site, in the best tradition of trying to
hide something once it has been on the net.
Some of my colleagues argued that this was a sly move to tell the whole story in an
unofficial way. I have my doubts.
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
(either W. James or N. Diamos)