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It's funny.  Laugh. Censorship

FBI Wiretapping Audit Secrets Uncovered Via Ctrl+C 231

Posted by kdawson
from the c'mon-guys-it's-not-even-obscure dept.
mytrip notes a story in Wired's Threat Level blog on the latest boneheaded government moves with redaction. (We've been discussing redaction follies here for years.) This time it's an FBI report (PDF) on implementing CALEA — you can select text from redacted areas, copy it, and paste into a text editor, as University of Pennsylvania professor Matt Blaze discovered. From Wired: "Once again, supposedly sensitive information blacked out from a government report turns out to be visible by computer experts armed with the Ctrl+C keys — and that information turns out to be not very sensitive after all... [Among] the tidbits considered too sensitive to be aired publicly: The FBI paid Verizon $2,500 apiece to upgrade 1,140 old telephone switches. Oddly the report didn't redact the total amount paid to the telecom — slightly more than $2.9 million dollars — but somehow the bad guys will win if they knew the number of switches and the cost paid."
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FBI Wiretapping Audit Secrets Uncovered Via Ctrl+C

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  • by Phyrexicaid (1176935) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:18AM (#23473644)
    If they were running a website, they would use:
    <FONT
    style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: black">Top Secret!</FONT>
  • You'd think that they would have learned by now.

    Your government dollars at work!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      Can you geeks only complain? First you complain that we try to keep information secret, then, when we're too dumb to do it right and the info gets out, you complain again.

      Is there a way to satisfy you? Jeesh...
  • by mikael_j (106439) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:19AM (#23473652)

    The headline and summary made took a minute for me to grasp, I just couldn't understand how you could get data out of something by halting execution.

    Then my brain woke up and I realized they were thinking of the Windows command Ctrl+C which copies the marked text..

    /Mikael

    • by hackstraw (262471) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:37AM (#23473794)
      Then my brain woke up and I realized they were thinking of the Windows command Ctrl+C which copies the marked text..

      Right. Me too. I don't use windows, so I think Ctrl+C == SIGINT.

      I saw a similar thing on another article here where they had Ctrl+Z in the article, and that took me a minute to figure out as well. I thought, WTF does suspending a task have to do with anything??? I then had to figure out that Ctrl+Z is the undo command in windows.

      • by x2A (858210)
        Just GUI, as Linux. Command line, ctrl+c is break and will also abort many running processes (like a file copy, an oh-my-god-I-didn't-realise-there-were-this-many-files-in-here directory listing etc etc) or if the running process is ignoring it, it'll often be picked up between commands in a running batch file, where you'll get a prompt asking if you wish to terminate the script or continue. If you set 'break on' however, then you get more luck with ctrl+break than ctrl+c, as attention is usually paid to th
    • by SharpFang (651121) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:42AM (#23473858) Homepage Journal
      very simply...

      Welcome To FBI Info Booth.
      Please press:
      1 to open contact form
      2 to learn about the organization
      3 to get the latest news
      4 to access the current most wanted list
      5 to access other FBI resources
      Your choice: _ [ctrl+C]
      Terminated.
      root@booth975.fbi.gov# cat ./wiretaps.txt
      • by x2A (858210)
        Err... I can only assume 'cat' was compiled for a different processor, but there must be emulation or something... I dunno... it just said "illegal instruction", but carried on anyway???

    • by Tim C (15259) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:43AM (#23473868)
      Ctrl+C, Ctrl+X and Ctrl+V were increasingly common shortcuts in Linux apps the last time I used Linux on the desktop, which is going back a good few years now.

      Yes, they still do "different" things in a terminal, but they're by no means "Windows commands" any more.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        yeah, you're 100%.

        those guys were just involved in a dick-measuring "biggest nerd" contest.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          those guys were just involved in a dick-measuring "biggest nerd" contest.

          The above explains the run that Home Depot had on tweezers and magnifying glasses.
      • by lilomar (1072448)
        Agreed. I've only been using Linux for about 3 years now, but this is the first I have heard of those commands referred to as "Windows commands".

        It's more like they are very common hot-keys for any GUI app. They don't work in windows apps about as often as they don't in linux.
        • > They don't work in windows apps about as often as they don't in linux.

          Right, Emacs runs on both Linux and Windows :P
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SL Baur (19540)

          It's more like they are very common hot-keys for any GUI app.
          C-SPC, C-w/M-w, C-y work just fine for me and we were using those keys before there was a Microsoft Windows, Linux or even modern Unix.

          Now get off my lawn!
      • by mikael_j (106439) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @08:00AM (#23474036)

        I think my problem is that for regular *nix I don't use KDE or Gnome and thus I'm still using what I'm used to (mark + middle click to paste) from when I started using X11, and for macs I find myself either drag'n'dropping or using cmd+c which has become differentiated from ctrl+c in my mind (as I use ctrl+c to shut down processes, not copy data).

        /Mikael

      • by dbitch (553938) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @08:23AM (#23474302)
        These are the IBM Common User Access commands [wikipedia.org]. So, they were never "Windows commands" to begin with.

        Funny how history works, huh?
        • by McDutchie (151611)

          These are the IBM Common User Access commands. So, they were never "Windows commands" to begin with.

          And before that (since the Mac's introduction in 1984) they were Macintosh commands - Command-X, Command-C and Command-V. At the time, Macs didn't have a CTRL key, and PCs still don't have a Command key. This being the only reason for the difference in modifier key, it's obvious that the Mac originated this convention.

          (Now cue the replies saying Apple stole it from Xerox, never mind that Xerox's implementat

        • by _xeno_ (155264) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @10:07AM (#23475910) Homepage Journal

          These are the IBM Common User Access commands [wikipedia.org]. So, they were never "Windows commands" to begin with.

          No, they're not. The Wikipedia article even lists the correct keys that actually were in the CUA. They were the ever-so-intuitive:

          Copy: Ctrl-Ins
          Cut: Shift-Del
          Paste: Shift-Ins
          Undo: Alt-Backspace

          These were the CUA shortcuts. The new Ctrl-Z/X/C/V shortcut set was stolen off the Mac, because unlike the CUA set, it makes sense. Unlike the CUA, it's always Control-Something. X and C make perfect sense for Cut and Copy. Z and V make less sense unless you think of them as little icons, in which case the Z is a Zig-Zag backwards and the V is a down-arrow pasting into the document. Ultimately, though, they're used because they're next to each other on the keyboard. All your common edit actions in a nice little row.

          If you want a non-Wikipedia source, you can try this page [ratherco.com]. The CUA keys still work in most Windows applications, it's just that the Mac keys also work since they don't overlap. Alt-F4 remains as probably the most-used CUA shortcut.

      • by MightyYar (622222)
        Not a flame, but why would you use Ctrl+C when just selecting the text puts it in the pasteboard?

        Anyway, they aren't "Windows" shortcuts, because the Mac uses them too (and first, I believe). They can probably be called MS shortcuts, though, because I think they first showed up in Word for Mac.

        (Yes, I know Macs use Command instead of Control - but that point is moot since in 1984 Macs had no "Control" key)
        • by sqldr (838964) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:05AM (#23474884)
          There's actually two pasteboards. Selecting it puts it into the X11 pasteboard, ctrl+c puts it into the gnome/kde pasteboard. There are differences, eg. the gnome/kde one has metadata and can contain images, links etc. It also seems to be more limitless - pasting 50000 lines from the X11 buffer rarely works.

          It's actually really useful to have two paste buffers in certain issues - ctrl-v to paste one, middle to paste the other.
          • by x2A (858210)
            Or working in vi running in a remote screen session from putty... each one having their own clipboard... very rarely I get mixed up, and if I do it's usually an undo key back... unless some reason I have a load of text or something in one clipboard (like accidentally selected something at some point) and I click the mouse button and just see loads of lines about 'command not found' as it tries to run every line that was in the clipboard, no stopping it, until it stops and begins chunking away at the harddri
      • Yes, they still do "different" things in a terminal, but they're by no means "Windows commands" any more.

        I don't think the terminal vs. non-terminal distinction is necessarily valid.

        Text can copied from a Firefox window, for example, the same way in which text is copied from a terminal, that is by simply by selecting it. Pasting is similarly identical for both, using SHIFT+INSERT. No CTRL keys required.
      • by Peet42 (904274)

        they're by no means "Windows commands" any more.


        They never were; they were inherited from WordStar for CP/M; the original programmers of Windows included them for their own convenience, but they were initially undocumented.
        • by rvw (755107)
          That's not true. See this screenshot [rr.com]. CTRL-C made you scroll down. Arrow keys were not used back then, so E and X were up and down, S and D left and right, A and F word left and right, and R and C scroll up and down.
      • They don't work in a Windows console/DOS box either...

    • by FlameWise (84536) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:47AM (#23473912)
      Honestly, same here. Some of those headlines are becoming really hard to read.

      "Wiretapping": verb. The FBI is wiretapping something. "is" omitted as in many headlines.

      "Audit": verb. The FBI's act of wiretapping is auditing something (Huh?)

      "Secrets": verb. The Audit of the FBI's wiretapping is leaking something. Wait isn't "secrete" writting with an extra "e"?

      "Uncovered": verb, passive. By now I'm sort doubtful I got it right in the fourth attempt.

      "Via Ctrl+C": By what?

      It took me reading the link in the original post to figure they meant a key press and not a screen name or a publication I wasn't familiar with, also helped me sort the four verbs into some semblance of legal grammar.

      How about: "Copy & Paste Reveals FBI Wiretapping Audit Secrets"?

      Remember school: Passive is bad for you.
      • by FlameWise (84536) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:48AM (#23473928)
        Right, I had one moment where I thought that hitting Ctrl+C would somehow reveal that the FBI is auditing you, too.
      • by digitig (1056110)
        Headlines usually make extensive use of noun phrases to premodify nouns. In the case of that headline, the only verb is "uncovered".

      • by AmaDaden (794446)

        Remember school: Passive is bad for you.
        I can't find the story but I remember hearing that passive is actually good for naming stories on the internet. People tend to search with passive words so your stuff is more likely to come up.
      • by x2A (858210)
        Yes the wording is pretty bad, but... you are joking right? "The FBI's act of wiretapping is auditing something" would be "Wiretapping audits [thing]"... "wiretapping audit" is clearly an audit of the wiretapping, as a "security audit" would be an audit of the security of something (which these guys didn't do!)... so that's a noun... it's a thing. It might be something that happens, like an eclipse, but it's not a verb, unless it's eclipsing, eclipsed. And secrets... I can't even think off the top of my hea
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Zarhan (415465)
      "Ctrl+C" isn't just "Windows" standard, it's actually coming from much older days. You are looking for

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_User_Access [wikipedia.org]

      and it's actually originating from IBM. Personally I'm *glad* that Linux desktop environments are also pretty much implementing the standard - I *like* being able to always hit F1 for help, Shift+F12 for save etc. I've even seen CUA bindings setup for Emacs but cannot find a link right now..
      • "Ctrl+C" isn't just "Windows" standard, it's actually coming from much older days.


        Um, no it isn't. CUA was introduced in 1987. Windows was first released in 1985 and CUA mostly codified the Windows interface. CUA is a Windows-centric standard.
        • by Curien (267780)

          "Ctrl+C" isn't just "Windows" standard, it's actually coming from much older days.

          Um, no it isn't. CUA was introduced in 1987. Windows was first released in 1985 and CUA mostly codified the Windows interface. CUA is a Windows-centric standard.

          The CUA is not Windows-centric. It was designed during the heyday of DOS-based graphical programs, when Windows was hardly ever used. In fact, Windows mostly copied the Apple spellings: Cmd+ZXCV, which are from the Apple Lisa and original Mac (and thus predate Windows) became Ctrl+ZXCV. The IBM CUA uses Ctrl+Del, Ctrl+Ins, and Shift+Ins for cut, copy, and paste, respectively.

    • by morcego (260031)
      I'm even dumber than you. I only "figured it out" after reading your post.

      Geez.
  • It's easy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by johannesg (664142) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:20AM (#23473654)
    Look, the point of blacking out is not just to remove critical information, it is also to get you used to large parts of documents being blacked out. It is a way of hiding a signal within a lot of noise.

    By randomly blacking out stuff, you will never know if there is vital information hiding underneath the black text. And you will become more and more accepting of documents that have barely any text at all.

    The purpose is, of course, to allow more and more freedom to the agencies doing the blacking out. And less and less to you.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by PatboyX (968493)
      Washington Irving at it again!
    • Except all it does is get me in the habit of copying and pasting the whole document to see if they have screwed up again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by FudRucker (866063)
      lol, they might as well publish everything with lorem ipsum on it...

      ---TOP SECRET--- "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt moll
    • by jmv (93421)
      I would also suspect a lot of the badly redacted stuff is made on purpose to make people believe the "redacted" info. That or to distract people away from the non-redacted info.
  • No suprises (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:20AM (#23473656) Homepage
    Most of the time something deemed "secret" rarely is. Also when I was last in the public Sector, IT was woefully underfunded and overall employee training was even worse. Things like this will continue to be a major mess.
  • by curmudgeon99 (1040054) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:20AM (#23473660)
    This is a classic example of secrecy being used not for national security but to avoid embarrassment. There are likely thousands of these types of secrets that cost money to keep but that are for no reason at all. Ass clowns.
    • Not really (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The calia network as outlined originally, would have used a fraction of the switches. That number of switches indicates that they were monitoring a LOT more. IOW, this was not about wireless but about the entire world wide network. FBI is tapping all of Verizon.

      The one big embarrassment out of that, is that it shows that they had total access to the network, and yet 9/11 occurred. So, does that mean that this was not being used for terrorism, or does this indicate that we did know and ignored what was to
    • by hyades1 (1149581)

      I'm surprised NRA members aren't all over this like a cheap suit. One of their primary arguments is that if possession of guns is criminalized, only criminals will have guns.

      The argument against this kind of secrecy is identical. When these agencies have the power to classify anything they want "Secret", the only people who know what they're up to are terrorists, spy organizations and other malefactors. They don't seem to have much trouble defeating the "security" protecting sensitive and embarrassing

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Can we get a new category, like "Gallows Humor"?

    Besides, we shouldn't be reporting on this stuff-- our only defense against this government anymore is its own monumental stupidity.
  • Implementation (Score:5, Informative)

    by Graywolf (61854) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:23AM (#23473686)
    "Redacted" was apparently implemented by covering the area with a white rectangle. Since the PDF has real text/vector graphics (as opposed to a bitmap), the information is still present in the file and even the standard Acrobat viewer can access it. Someone "Failed at Behaving Intelligently"
    • Someone "Failed at Behaving Intelligently"

      Of course, why do you think they work for the government?
    • You know whats especially sad about this is - is Adobe actually implemented a redaction tool in Acrobat 8 that completely removes that data per word or over a larger area. However the metadata for this file looks like they are using 7 (still - 3rd party redaction tools exist for this product).

      Sounds like they need to upgrade - after all they definitely have the money to do so.
  • by ricebowl (999467) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:25AM (#23473702)

    "Once again, supposedly sensitive information blacked out from a government report turns out to be visible by computer experts armed with the Ctrl+C keys

    What confuses me is that, and I might be too generous in my assumption, I assume that there's an IT professional somewhere that looks over these released files prior to their release? I know that common sense is entirely too uncommon these days, but if I were to release a digital file (whether to an individual or the public) I'd make sure that someone from the IT department looked it over before release.

    Otherwise it's like having a flu vaccine released by managers that went nowhere near an immunologist or virologist.

    Still, I'm sure that, sometime soon, MS will remove the Ctrl+C combination. For national security, of course.

    • by MrMr (219533) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:33AM (#23473760)
      ...assume that there's an IT professional somewhere that looks over these released files prior to their release?

      Apparently you have never worked for a government department.

      Otherwise it's like having a flu vaccine released by managers that went nowhere near an immunologist or virologist.

      or in the pharmaceutical industry.
      • by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:38AM (#23473814)

        ...assume that there's an IT professional somewhere that looks over these released files prior to their release?

        Apparently you have never worked for a government department.

        Otherwise it's like having a flu vaccine released by managers that went nowhere near an immunologist or virologist.

        or in the pharmaceutical industry.
        It's not lack of knowledge, it's optimism. Don't pop the pink bubble.
    • I assume that there's an IT professional somewhere that looks over these released files prior to their release?

      Well, it was an IT guy, but no-one calls him a professional.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bushcat (615449)
      No, the "IT professional", if any, will have been excluded by the "incredibly thick underlings" thinking they actually have a clue. I've worked in such environments: the thicker the person, the more that person thinks s/he knows, and the more important that person believes s/he is.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Tim C (15259)
      I know that common sense is entirely too uncommon these days, but if I were to release a digital file (whether to an individual or the public) I'd make sure that someone from the IT department looked it over before release.

      A month or so ago our HR director distributed professionally-printed copies of the new Employee Handbook to everyone in the company.

      It is full of typos, grammatical errors, strange changes of tense or person, weird extra line breaks, etc. You'd have thought that someone would have proof r
    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      Actually, they will just remove the C key from all keyboards.
    • by Hyppy (74366)
      At least in the military, and government contracting, IT personnel are seen as the "obnoxious geeks" that just get in everyone's way and try to make work hard. They don't understand that MySpace and certain advertisers are blocked for a reason. They don't understand that you have to provide a justification for that firewall modification because IT is trying to protect the network, not because they hate you.

      Military officers ESPECIALLY despise IT. They were generally raised in a slightly more privilege
      • by nolife (233813)
        Agree with your opinions but...
        IT departments working in a non IT business is to serve the users. IT does not run the business. If the users are not satisfied and can not do their work they want, you have failed. Your job is to point out the potential problems (in writing if possible) of doing things their way from an IT prospective and let someone else make the business decision if they want to do that or not. If you have a strong IT department manager, you will be able to achieve a balance of ease of
        • by jcgf (688310)
          What happens when they don't listen to your warnings and make you set up the network to be totally un-secure and then still blame you when they get hacked? Those meeting minutes with your warning will be gone if it prevents Colonel Pomp from looking bad. I think the gp poster is right to cover his ass first.
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Would anybody say the same about the department that handles purchases of office equipment. Some employee wants a $6000 chair, and even though they know if they gave that to everybody, the company would go bankrupt, they should still do it, because the employee requests it. Some things should be non-negotiable. Just because some employee thinks they need a $6000 chair, or because they think they need a PC without a firewall, does not mean that they should be allowed to have it. Maybe some employee feels
        • by Hyppy (74366)
          Except the federal government is not a business. The officers and managers that fight IT do not have the authority to make the decisions they are making. A Colonel does not override the authority of the Major General who signed the policies into effect.

          If that individual runs a computer which breaks security policy, then more than likely they are breaking a variety of laws. Not only that, IT personnel who allow that action are also breaking laws, laws which could land said IT personnel into federal pr
  • by R2.0 (532027) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:37AM (#23473802)
    Sometimes items are redacted because of contractual commitments or confidentiality agreements. Take the example in the story; now, all Verizon's competition needs to do is bid $2,499 per switch and they get the job. So what if they could have supplied the switches at $2,200 and still made a healthy profit - they just need to be low. So that's $299 extra per switch that the government (aka, taxpayers) will have to pay because the competitive bid environment has been contaminated.

    But hey, they made their point about evil government masterminds being wholly incompetent, so what does logic matter?
    • by NiceGeek (126629)
      If I'm not permitted to have secrets, why should they?
    • So that's $299 extra per switch that the government (aka, taxpayers) will have to pay because the competitive bid environment has been contaminated.
      We're talking about the same environment where bids aren't needed for the vice president's former (and future?) employer here. You're paying extra no matter what.
  • LOL! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:38AM (#23473820) Journal
    visible by computer experts armed with the Ctrl+C keys

    The FBI is trying to trick me into thinking they're all stupid so they can find out where I've got the 500 acre marijuana farm with its fiftten thousand tons of marijuana in the barn, 500 beautiful hookers and the casino downstairs, where you can buy white lightning and moonshine.

    Meanwhile, Osama's still loose.

    Attention FBI: Look, dumbasses, print the damned thing out, black out the parts that embarrass the President and your Director with a magic marker and scan it to a TIF file (that's a graphics format, guys. Pay attention!) and "print" THAT to PDF.

    But you already know that, you're trying to find my pot gambling hooker farm!
    • Re:LOL! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Thanshin (1188877) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:47AM (#23473914)

      print the damned thing out, black out the parts that embarrass the President and your Director with a magic marker and scan it to a TIF file (that's a graphics format, guys. Pay attention!) and "print" THAT to PDF.
      WRONG!

      The official method is:

      1 - Print the document.
      2 - Cut the private parts away with a cutter.
      3 - If you've not castrated yourself, you should have a paper with holes. Put it in a wooden table.
      4 - Make a photo of said table.
      5 - Load the photo in a power point.
      6 - publish the ppt file.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Inda (580031)
      The magic marker ink will not hide the printer ink. It will show up on the scan.

      Better luck next time. Thanks for playing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by genderbunny (1190319)
      I'm also inept. Now where might this farm be located?
    • But you already know that, you're trying to find my pot gambling hooker farm!
      Because it is really important to prevent you from having a good time while Osama's still on the loose. We have to keep our priorities straight after all...
    • by khb (266593)
      Acrobat 8 has redaction tools built in.
    • by TummyX (84871)

      Meanwhile, Osama's still loose.


      I don't mean to be nitpicky but isn't Osama most likely outside of the US? Somewhere outside the jurisdiction of the FBI?
  • The New Math (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nqz (778393)
    Maybe the FBI should stick to something, like wiretapping for example, rather than performing simple math for a report ... 1140 x $2,500 $2.9 million (see the reverse pacman sign)
  • The mosaic effect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:49AM (#23473936)
    Now, I'm all up for good gov't conspiracy, and working for the gov't, I know how they spend inappropriately.

    But there is something called the mosaic effect. The short of it is that you have two (or more) documents. None of them by themselves are sensitive, but as a group, they become sensitive because they give you a complete picture. It's quite possible that this redacted info gives that picture.

    In addition, gov't entities regularly leave out the specifics like the number of switches because they do not want to demonstrate the scope of their operations. Not for any malicious reasons, but for what they perceive as a security risk. It might be a false risk, but it's not malicious.
  • by vecctor (935163) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:55AM (#23473986)
    When I read this, the first thing I thought of were the evil overlord rules - specifically this one:

    One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.
    They just need to have some intern to sit around and spot obvious flaws in document security. Any idiot giving this doc a cursory examination would have found this.

  • by Halo- (175936) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:56AM (#23474000)
    For me, the best part of the article was the link to the NSA redaction guidelines. Interesting reading I suppose, but the fact that throughout the entire paper the screencaps of MS Word had that damn Clippy-substitute cat sitting in the corner was classic. I'm not sure I'd trust someone (even at the NSA) to give me advice on MS Word options and settings when they can't even turn of the animated assistant.
  • How much!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JaJ_D (652372) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @07:57AM (#23474008)
    The FBI paid Verizon $2,500 apiece to upgrade 1,140 old telephone switches. Oddly the report didn't redact the total amount paid to the telecom â" slightly more than $2.9 million dollars â" but somehow the bad guys will win if they knew the number of switches and the cost paid.

    It's more likely that the total number is large and people go "ok must be a lot" but at 2.5k usd per switch people would go "how fucking much!!!" - that's what they may want to avoid

    Jaj
  • Figure B: "SCREENSHOT OF ASKCALEA HELP DESK DATABASE"

    It shows requests from:
    Montogmery County, MD
    Baltimore County (state not listed)
    Omaha branch of the FBI
    Kenner, Louisiana
    US Secret Service
    Racine (Wisconsin?)
    Taylorsville, Utah

    Look at all of those small towns. Given that even the very small towns are using CALEA, it looks like the use of wiretaps is very widespread.
  • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @08:01AM (#23474044) Homepage Journal
    how abused and misapplied all those "in the interest of national security" procedures are when there is no oversight in place. When will the legislators ever learn, anything that can be abused or misused, will be abused and misused in the absence of oversight? It's not even "might" or "is very likely". It always happens. It's human nature to take advantage for personal gain without risk. They censor anything that they want to, for any agenda, because they can. And this just exposes that truth.

    Now watch how they react to it. Do they straighten up their censorship policies? of course not. They'll simply make the abuse harder to discover.
  • by AHuxley (892839) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @08:11AM (#23474152) Homepage Journal
    In the USA you still only have to do the math on the 'number' and 'quality' of roving witetaps.
    The use of public or released data to see what police forces are doing is interesting.
    In India you have to count the number of dead.
    "The records show that Durgiyana Mandir ground was one of three cremation sites in Amritsar
    illegally used by the police.
    It takes about 300kg of wood to burn a single body and each wood purchase is written in a register.
    The police subverted the system, by burning more than one body on each pyre.

    http://news.sbs.com.au/dateline/india__who_killed_the_sikhs_130052 [sbs.com.au] [sbs.com.au]
  • ...must be high on the FBI's list of priorities.

    Verizon: We'd love to help you, but, you know, if we do this for you, we'd have to do it for everyone.

    FBI: Don't worry, we'll never tell.
  • IINM, normal usage of the word "apiece" implies multiple recipients - eg "My children received pocket money of $10 apiece." which means I was out $20.

    Think there was a previous deletion that was successfully hidden and there's actually another recipient involved?
  • The FBI paid Verizon $2,500 apiece to upgrade 1,140 old telephone switches. Oddly the report didn't redact the total amount paid to the telecom â" slightly more than $2.9 million dollars â" but somehow the bad guys will win if they knew the number of switches and the cost paid."
    The day the evildoers learn to use the * key for multiplication is the day of the apocalypse.
  • This strikes me as an intentional leak perpetrated by an employee who thought it was dumb to retract all of that. Just a gut feeling. I have no way to back that up.

    -l
  • by rpp3po (641313) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @08:54AM (#23474714)
    this is reverse psychology! Hide some nonsense behind CRTL+C and the people point at you laughing about hiding such nonsense. Give 'em nothing but black bars and they will be afraid what terrible things are behind them and shout for more transparency.
  • according to TFA... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon AT gamerslastwill DOT com> on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:00AM (#23474808) Homepage Journal
    the FBI had spent $500 Million for these sort of upgrades. If verizon only cost them $2.9 million, and the other carriers cost only slightly more, where's the other $475 million dollars?
  • In Ubuntu if you use the default PDF viewer (Evince), you can see the "sensitive information" in the tables by simply HIGHLIGHTING the text.

    No need to even use the keyboard to copy/paste the data! ;)
  • by kellyb9 (954229)
    I just have to say... wow.. i'm amazed... wait, no, I'm not. I've worked for a government organization and this doesn't surprise me. But I was thinking a simple solution is to encrypt sensitive text, turn it into garbage, and then black out the garbage.
  • The naivete! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wfolta (603698) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @09:30AM (#23475290)
    It hurts my brain. The person who (incompetently) redacted the document was probably just following guidelines. My guess is that there's a guideline that says that specific numbers and costs cannot be published in reference to secure systems used by an intelligence or law enforcement agency. Only aggregate costs, as necessary to inform the public and lawmakers.

    No conspiracy. No corruption. No deeper meaning than a guideline that requires sticking your neck out and making a case if you want to violate it.

    Makes sense, actually, as most intelligence gathering is probably not about sentences like, "John Doe is our super-secret mole in the office of the director", but rather "the phone system has 1100 switches for all of North America, and is taken down every 2 weeks at 1 am for maintenance."

    And this leaves me wondering if those who are laughing or outraged at the attempted redaction (as opposed to the incompetence in implementing it) are also the same people who insist that they must have military-grade encryption and anonymous re-routing, using spread-spectrum wireless transmissions to public access facilities, in order to protect their private emails to grandmother. Sigh.
  • Go through these documents and redact anything sensitive.
    What does redact mean?
    Just black things out.
    What things?
    Just make it look good. Anything that seems important
    OK sir!

      was a 6 months earlier, and got promoted. His name is Peter. He reports to another manager with whom he had mostly the same conversation with an hour earlier with the places reversed...
    • by greywire (78262)
      Thats what I get for not looking at the preview..

      Manager: Go through these documents and redact anything sensitive.
      Peon: What does redact mean?
      Manager: Just black things out.
      Peon: What things?
      Manager: Just make it look good. Anything that seems important
      Peon: OK sir!

      Manager was a Peon 6 months earlier, and got promoted. His name is Peter. He reports to another manager with whom he had mostly the same conversation with an hour earlier with the places reversed..

  • One federal job I'd applied for had a form that could only be done electronically.

    Ok, great...less paper.

    Form did not work with acrobat4.
    Upgraded to 7 and found it was locked and p/w protected. (view only..d'oh)
    No mention of p/w or email address/support if problems with the form.
    Found app that strips the protection/pw.

    Fitting I watched Apollo13 a few days ago and thought "Tell me this isn't a government operation".

    Heck, can't get info you're supposed to have/need, what makes one think they can hide stuff yo
  • by virmaior (1186271) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @10:34AM (#23476350)
    from an information security standpoint, this actually makes some sense. Allow me to explain. First, the high value number is going to show up in budgets anyway, so anyone who wants that number could already find it. It's hard to not have a few million dollars show up in the accounting somehow. Second, the reason the exact dollar value per part is usually redacted is that this is a giant clue as to the identity of the part used in the infrastructure. E.g. if I tell you I have a $300 mp3 player, then you know that I have an IPOD. But if I tell you that I bought a bunch of mp3 players and spent $100,000 then you don't know whether I've bought Zens, Zunes, ipods, sansas, or something else. And the problem with telling people what your infrastructure is made of who shouldn't know is that it enables them to focus on vulnerabilities for just that one device. caveat: I actually have a $10 mp3 player.
  • by Specter (11099) on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @10:59AM (#23476794) Journal
    The actual cost of performing the service was likely redacted, not as a matter of national security, but because the pricing is contractually considered proprietary information .

    Most companies include this as a standard clause in their master service agreements so that Joe's Barber shop isn't upset that Big Government Office is getting a different (presumably better) price for exactly the same service.
  • by gizmonic (302697) * on Tuesday May 20, 2008 @01:01PM (#23479244) Homepage
    The reason to hide the cost per switch is to keep the negotiations invisible from other providers. Sure, you can report $2.9 million to Verizon, but AT&T doesn't know how many switches that was or the cost per switch. Maybe they worked out a cheaper deal with AT&T for, say, $2,000 per switch instead of $2,500. If AT&T knew what Verizon was getting paid, they'd hold out for more themselves. While it may seem silly to hide the details, doing so probably saves a little cash in the long run.

    Of course, now, if they ever need to do more switches, I am betting every vendor will be holding out for the highest publicized price (or their own private price, if it's higher still). So, yeah, sometimes disseminating what you think is non-critical information will in fact cost us more in the long run. Revealing it may not make "the bad guys win" but it can definitely make the taxpayer lose.

    Just my unredacted $0.02.

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