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 its glory.

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)