If you close your eyes, you don't actually disappear

by Volker Weber

Unclassified report

Last Friday an official report was released by the Pentagon and the American authorities claiming basically that the murder of the Italian secret agent Calipari in Bagdad was a consequence not of the American soldiers mishandling of the situation but due to the wrong behaviour of the Italians and the car carrying the agent and the hostage on the way to the airport.

The document was produced in Acrobat PDF format and most of important information was hidden as confidential. The Italian government (the minister of foreign affairs) made a lot of noise as they disagreed with the conclusions and refused to sign the document. No names were released from the Americans and many important details wiped out from above document.

This morning Gianluca Neri, an Italian blogger from Milano, had a look at the document which was published on the net and ridiculized the whole American secret services. With a simple cut and paste from the Acrobat document into a word processor, he was able to disclose all details to the public: names, places, the name of the soldier who fired, everything...

It is actually pretty simple to recover that information. Open this PDF, select all text, copy to clipboard and paste into a regular text editor. if your version of Acrobat does not let you select the text, find the Microsoft Word document here.

I feel much safer now knowing that our security is handled by experts.

[Thanks, Pieterjan]


Oh my god, you really just made my day. Um, make that "month".

Sebastian Krauß, 2005-05-02 00:53

Thanks Volker. Hope to get this around to more people here in the U.S.

Ed M. Taylor, 2005-05-02 06:02

I will sleep much sounder tonight knowing that such fools as this are responsible for protecting our well being.

Thank you for sharing this.

Omar K. Ravenhurst, 2005-05-02 07:38

These pentagon fools arn't protecting your well being Omar, its the boys wearing the cami's. Don't forget that. This isnt a simple mistake... Doesn't it seem just all perfect and obvious?

I call BS. Or something deeper. Anyone find the pdf on the original site? The link above is from vowe.net... Hmmmm

ATAN Roberts, Rhett, 2005-05-02 09:13

I just read through the entire pdf and no where does it say anything about it being classified information. Lots of unclassifieds though. Doesnt the freedom of information act grant access to unclassified materials anyway?

ATAN Roberts, Rhett, 2005-05-02 09:21

Let's see what will happen when you travel next time into god's own country...


Richard Kaufmann, 2005-05-02 11:23

ATAN Roberts, Rhett: The point is that the government released the PDF with several sections ostensibly redacted. The job was done poorly, and as such, copying the text into Word (or whatever) reveals the redacted sections. This includes the names of the US soldiers, but also "secret" tactics and statistics. Oops.

Ed Brill, 2005-05-02 11:30

@ATAN Roberts - There are numerous sections marked (S/NF) , or Secret/No Foreign, i.e. not releasable to foreign nationals.

The whole document would have been classified S/NF if the military had realised everyone could read them. As Ed says, Oops!

John Keys, 2005-05-02 12:37

Volker, thanks for posting the mail I sent you last night, for sure it will get more visibility than from my website.

In case somebody still want's a source to documents, they can be found here.

Pieterjan Lansbergen, 2005-05-02 12:45

The story is now all over the place. Boingboing and Slashdot covered it. I would say, the cat is out of the bag. ;-)

Volker Weber, 2005-05-02 12:58

So the security services did a dumb thing. Get over it you dopes, wherever you find humans you will find dumbasses even in the most elite groups.
The Italian blogger who pubished the names of the soldiers is a scumbag however. (by the way i'm a Brit so don't have a vested interest in stickin up for the Yanks.)
Individual soldiers who are under attack all day and obviously nervous and when a car doesn't follow orders they don't have time to think, they are trained to act.
Maybe some think it was negligence on the part of the check point soldiers but the fact is none of us know for sure.
This is not an excuse for publicising the soldiers name. That is petulant and malicious. That's why this scumbag is a blogger and not a journalist.
The Italians did some damn shameful things in their pre-allies WW2 reign but the individual soldiers were not used as whipping boys.
I'm not too keen on the USA but this habit you all have of taking any oppertunity to demonise America makes me sick. You forget or muddy the motives of every single good thing America has ever done and villify any mistake however large or small while yearning to get there and live their life.
I lived in the USA for ten years and was bored in the end so left as it's not to my taste but i despise scumbags who play playground polotics and attack America any chance they get. Look to your own shame before you spend time on others you jealous, small minded bigots.

Jim Smith, 2005-05-02 15:23

In this case, the cat is certainly out of the bag, but not having read the document, let me say I hope you did and used your best judgment as to whether or not to bring attention to it.

Typically, sections of classified documents are kept secret to protect soldiers' lives, not to deceive the public.

Some office staffer in Washington made a dumb mistake and some kid in Iraq may have to ultimately pay the price with his or her life.

Jim O'Connell, 2005-05-02 15:30

I'm glad the gaff was discovered and publicized, but I echo the comments of the Jims above, this is a disservice to all involved and helps no one. 'REAL' journalists have a code of ethics and some accountability for their actions. While blogs put the power of a large audience in the hands of anyone with internet access, unfortunately, blogs don't automatically provide the power of common sense.

We don't know what happened over there, whether the soldiers involved acted correctly or criminally, but publishing their names is just plain irresponsible. Criminally so.

Ed Tapanes, 2005-05-02 16:09

Maybe you gentlemen can explain why you think the names of these "kids" (as if they are innocent young lambs) being in the media after killing people is any different than some local sniper case in the US. You can blame the bloggers all you want, but these "kids" still killed an innocent. It's happened thousands of times over there, and the killers were judge, jury and executioner. The only difference this time is it was someone with media clout. They all had equally valuable hopes and dreams and goals, if on a different scale.

This is the price of decisions, both the decisions of the "kids" and the decisions of the hawks that sent them over there. They all should have thought about this before they signed up, but this has turned into a boy scout adventure with big toys and too much money... our money. I suspect we've spent much more securing cheap oil than we would have spent just giving a tax break to everyone that owns a gas guzzler over here. It's pathetic and sad.

Before you point fingers next time, be sure you aren't the one standing on thin ice.

Jack Welch, 2005-05-02 17:52

The real issue here is that the standard operating procedure of throwing people and software together without training or establishing best-practice procedures is finally resulting in something more than hard-to-quantify losses in productivity, security, and privacy. It's time for businesses (and governments) to wake up, stop being penny-wise and pound-foolish, and start training their employees properly.

To all those who are critisizing those who brought this error to light, for "hurting" or "lack of ethics". The document was already out there. The skills involved in "bypassing" the "redacts" were minimal! This amounted to trying to censor something by covering it with a sticky-note! It was only a matter of time for it to become public: one way or another. You can be sure that those who would use the information for harm (i.e. extremists, terrorists, governments that don't like the U.S.A, etc.) have other means than these to discover and profit from the error. Not only is the cat out of the bag, it was never in the bag in the first place. If Google's search engines had found that document, they would have found the text and made it searchable, without any human assistance. That's how serious this error was. No scumbaggery was required to put that uncensored information out there.

That being the case, attention must be called to the error, and the full impact, the huge scope, of this error must be broadcast, to the biggest audience possible. Such serious and avoidable errors need to be exposed to the public that these security "experts" are supposed to be working for.

JamesSteiner, 2005-05-02 18:47

Blame the polotics of the occupation of Iraq as much as you like. I'm happy to let everyone have their own oppinion without feeling the need to try to persuade one way or the other.
My only point is that soldiers follow orders. In this case you give him the benefit of the doubt, you don't crucify him in the forum of public oppinion.
Remember the soldier who executed the wounded iraqi dude who was laying on his bed mat. Now there's a guy you bay for prosecution about. But even then, you don't get personal. You attack the government that is responsible for prosecuting his possible war crime.
Grow up armchair generals.

Jim Smith, 2005-05-02 19:00

As if publishing that soldiers name cleared up anything or put a better light on what happened.

It didn't. All it did was put a soldier’s life in more unnecessary danger that it should be in (not that Italy is going to kill him or anything). But then I'd bet you dollars to doughnuts that was the bloggers real intention anyways.

Just my two cents worth...

Jerry Doyle, 2005-05-02 19:59

In case anyone wants to talk to the author, his name is included in XML tags within the document:

Creator(Acrobat PDFMaker 6.0 for Word)
Producer(Acrobat Distiller 6.0 \(Windows\))
AuthorEmailDisplayName(Potter Robert A COL MNFI STRATCOM)

John Goldman, 2005-05-02 21:09

But then I'd bet you dollars to doughnuts that was the bloggers real intention anyways.Yeah, sure it was. You hit the nail dead on there. </sarcasm>

Ben Poole, 2005-05-02 21:39

For anyone with a short memory, The SCO Group commited a similar blunder, although the subject material wasn't, perhaps, quite as grave.

For those with OS X 10.4, a new pdf workflow item is included, 'Render PDF Pages As Images', which would have prevented this problem. The full version of Acrobat is probably capable of doing the same thing, but I haven't used it for some time.

David Richardson, 2005-05-02 22:30

"That is petulant and malicious. That's why this scumbag is a blogger and not a journalist."


"But then I'd bet you dollars to doughnuts that was the bloggers real intention anyways."

And journalists have never been petulant and malicious??????? Glass houses and big stones come to mind.

The objective of the blogger was to highlight the complete lack of any security in the publishing of this document. No, it wasn't a "dumbass" that did this. I would bet "dollars to doughnuts" that most documents are published this way, with easily retractable text.

Considering the nationality of the blogger, there was a deeper feeling for the situation aswell, I am sure. Personally, I would have highlighted the error of the published document, but wouldn't have released the names. That is most likely what a journalist would have done (isn't it?). After that, the names would have went public anyway.

I find it interesting that many journalists have made references to their disliking of bloggers. Does something deeper lie here?

Paul Mooney, 2005-05-02 22:42

Looking at the screenshot in vowe's post, 2400 attacks were perpetrated against Coalition Forces in four and a half months. Iraq is a seemingly unending hell-hole with nobody wanting to admit it or do anything substantial to fix it, undoubtedly because it isn't politically expedient, and because the world's moved its attention on to the next glittering thing on the telly.

One can debate the merits and demerits of publishing classified information, but I think the indignation is misdirected, particularly in this case. One inescapable truth is that poor soldier's life is in far more danger because of politicians and theocrats playing their murderous games, than because of any fall-out from this document. *That* is where the outrage should be directed.

Colin Pretorius, 2005-05-02 22:44

>'REAL' journalists have a code of ethics and some accountability for their actions.

I think what you mean is that 'real' journalists SHOULD have a code of ethics and so forth. Unfortunately, as often as not 'real' journalists are now little more than sock puppets for politicians with scary agendas.

Monty Kane, 2005-05-02 23:23

Whats amazing is the shooter is an Italian/American.


Tim Boston, 2005-05-03 00:15

Kids shouldn't play with dangerous toys.

Antonio Ferrao, 2005-05-03 00:24

I listened to the Italian lady journalist who was captured, held, released, and the proximate cause of the shooting which killed the Italian intelligence officer. She was interviewed a couple of days ago by the Democracy Now woman. Her story rings true to me. The official U.S.Gov't story does not ring true. She's been called a "commie" and other unsavory things by the Bushites, and she may very well be for all I know, but I am satisfied that our government's intent was to blow her away. They failed, but surely scared hell out of her. And now they want to blame it on the Italians. Makes me sad to carry a U.S.Passport, except that I have happily observed in my travels in Europe that ordinary folks see through our current government's wickedness and do not blame ordinary Americans like me. But the world's patience is growing thin ~

Jay Pollard, 2005-05-03 00:52

MR Mooney seems to think that we are journalists for some reason. 'Stones, glass houses', 'Jounalists having a bad reaction to blogger'??? that would only apply if we were journalists dude but we arnt. We are just giving our oppinion.
Pointing out that the soldiers superiors are diks might be accurate but still doesn't detract from the fact that the blogger shouldn't have included the name of the soldier. He should have excercised some 'effective' editing of his own.
Oh, and i think he was Russian actually, just in Italy to study.

Jim Smith, 2005-05-03 02:31

I have no opinion whatsoever on if you are a journalist or not. Just don't quote ethics in relation to journalism as opposed to bloggers. That argument will not wash with me. Do you think a journalist would not have published this??
@Jim, you are perfectly entitled to your opinion (and if you re-read my comment, you may find that I agree with you on the publishing issue).

My reference to journalists' dislike of bloggers does not base itself in this article at all. Its an observation I have from reading aticles over the past years.
Oh, and nationality "Gianluca Neri, an Italian blogger from Milano" is where I got his nationality. Even if he is Russian, I am well aware of the student mentality in Italy is to the Iraq issue.

Paul Mooney, 2005-05-03 06:36

RE : "by the way i'm a Brit so don't have a vested interest in stickin up for the Yanks..."

followed by...

"Get over it you dopes, wherever you find humans you will find dumbasses..."

and : "The Italians did some damn shameful things.."

and : "But then I'd bet you dollars to doughnuts..."

"Dopes"? "Dollars"? "Donuts"? "Dumbass"? "Damn shameful"?. Say what you like mate, you don't sound British to me. I think you're pretending to be British for some reason.

Oh and... "villify any mistake however large or small while yearning to get there and live their life" - Ah that old neocon myth, popular among people who like to talk about politics but who can't actually spell it.

NIck Taylor, 2005-05-03 10:24

Can you provide a link to the original pdf from the Pentagon or other source that released the file. Thank you.

Martin Mack, 2005-05-03 10:43

@Martin - According to the BBC the official copy has been removed from the Pentagon webserver where it was published. (See - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4506517.stm)

If you trust other people's copies, the report is still on Gianluca Neri's blog under the link given by vowe at the top of this page.

John Keys, 2005-05-03 15:16

It is quite possible that the report was deliberately released this way. If you think about it it becomes obvious. The document must have passed through a chain of approvers before it was released. It is very unlikely that such a silly mistake could slip through unnoticed. Must be magic. It helped shift the focus from the real problem (wow! A top secret data is a mouse click away!). It also made questionable or biased numbers look like real ones (the data leaked accidentaly, so it must be real).

John Goldman, 2005-05-03 19:06

@Martin - a second source of the orginal document is the original newspaper article in Corriera della Sera:

John Keys, 2005-05-03 19:21

I'm stunned, but I shouldn't be. This current administration has demonstrated a limitless capacity for arrogance and incompetence.

I clicked on the links to obtain a copy of the original pdf and did a simple highlight, copy & paste into MS Word. Of course, the results were the same... all the redacted information was clearly visible. There is no excuse for this. It must have been important to hide the names, or they wouldn't have gone through the trouble. The least they could have done was entrust it to someone with a complete working knowledge of Adobe Acrobat.

No more than one year into Bush's first reign of terror on my country I ran out of words to describe my utter frustration and outrage. This is simply the way those right-wing fundies operate... recklessly!!

Isome Black, 2005-05-03 21:59

@Isome - do you /really/ believe Bush (or any member of his administration) is personally responsible for processing Pentagon reports? This embarrassing stuff-up -- if it really was a mistake at all -- was performed by some DoD career clerk. Whose future career prospects have probably just considerably dimmed. If you stop to think, what you really want to say is that you hate Bush so much you will blame him for anything, even when reason suggests he clearly has no relationship to the event. There's a word for that, I think.

Roger Fleming, 2005-05-04 02:07

Cursing the blogger who revealed the names is completely useless and besides the case: The moment the PDF document was published in that state, this information was already public. That is the point of bringing this to the light. If you blame the blogger for revealing the names, you just put yourself in the same league with the guy who thought he had successfully hidden that information in the first place.
The PDF document floats around in Google caches, on other web pages, on hard drives, it's being sent around by email and on CDs. Those names are in there for anyone with a computer and a mouse to see. Publishing the names in the clear just removes everybody from the hard work to click the PDF.

Sascha Welter, 2005-05-04 14:13

Quoting Maximillian Dornseif -- "Complex data formats usually contain much more information than we are aware it."


Jim Geovedi, 2005-05-10 12:02

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.


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