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More PDF Blackout Follies 309

Posted by timothy
from the it's-even-secret-what-they-want-secret dept.
georgewilliamherbert writes "The latest installment of "As the PDF Blackouts Turn" hit today, with a U.S. government apparently releasing a redacted version of their court filing in the Balco grand jury leak case which merely stuck a black line over the text, which remains available in the document. As with prior documents, entering text cut/paste mode in a normal PDF browser such as Acrobat allows a reader to access the concealed text. Previous incidents include an AT&T filing in the NSA case." This works with Xpdf and KPDF, too; for KPDF, use the selection tool (under the Tools menu) around the redacted section, copy to clipboard, then paste into the text-manipulator of your choice.
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More PDF Blackout Follies

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  • People...learn...? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Elros (735454) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @10:40AM (#15582400) Homepage
    You would think that people would have learned after the first time around. Apparently not.

    --
    "And the geek shall inherit the earth."
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @10:42AM (#15582415)
    i keep an older version of adobe's acrobat reader for Linux version 5.0 and copy & paste in to a text editor works in it too...

    i hate the new acrobat reader. some claim it calls home to the mothership(Adobe) which i dont approve of either (spyware)...
  • by blcamp (211756) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @10:46AM (#15582452) Homepage

    Really nice to know that these folks has taken an apparent cue on safe and secure documents from the folks in Redmond.

    On a serious note... this is seriously scary. Imagine if the NSA and other agencies are redacting all of their documents this way an passing them around the world to field offices, embassies and elsewhere.

    Imagine the implications during legal proceedings here in the States. Yikes.

  • And these are... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by jimktrains (838227) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @10:51AM (#15582496) Homepage
    And these are the people we are suppose to be entrusting our government too? I have never understood why people are so damn lazy that they can't do a little research into what they are doing. People juat want results, not knowlege about what they are doing.

    If you want my opinion (or even if you don't...:-p) this is the achelle's(sp) heel of our society today, most people are lazy bastards that just want to get done with somethign without learning anything about it. People just want to finish school to get a degree and do whatever. This is BS. That takes moeny from people like me who want a PhD (I'm an undergrad at the momenet) in a research science (bio, chem, and/or the computational varients of them), but can't get enough money to even pay tuition and buy the books I need. I would more than gladly work for the school to do it, but money is tight and work-study is hard to come by here.

    Another thing that pisses me off is incopetence. This article is a good example. Getting a few days to a week of for St. Patriks day is another (who the hell gets of for St. Pat's day?). I wish I had the time to do an indepth study of stupid laws that take up time in congress. Stupid piggy basks attached to laws (one was mentioned yesterday on /.) and just stupid things the legeslator has done. I would love to right a research report and send it to newspapers and my congressmen. I would even GNUFDL it so others could do the same...:-p (you know, since PD doens't exist, another thing....)

    So yeah, in conclusion, someone without computer experince was told to do somethign, did it without thinking or asking (my gf would at least ask if she has to do something she's unsure about, then it becomes the attoney's fault, not her's) someone else who should know more.
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @10:53AM (#15582505)
    I love this idea.

    Leave PDF the way it is. In fact, make it really hard to actually redact something, but put a tool front-and-center that looks like its redacting something.

    Then - remove any delete capability from Outlook. Trash is fine, but not delete.

    Then - configure all Windows machines to be inherently wide open, so that we may all peer into gov't computers. Oh wait, this is already true.

    Sometimes I think those in positions of high gov't power should forfeit practically all privacy for the duration of their term. Put a webcam on these fuckers 24/7. Does that sound... draconian? Unreasonable? Maybe. But after losing billions of dollars in things like Iraq military contract debacles, I don't trust any of these people. They certainly don't trust us.

  • by Tozog (599414) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @10:53AM (#15582511)
    Here's how the NSA recommends redacting files:

    http://www.nsa.gov/snac/vtechrep/I333-TR-015R-2005 .PDF [nsa.gov]
  • by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Thursday June 22, 2006 @10:57AM (#15582543)
    Two things: 1) Why not have a handy context menu option, "Redact selection", available with a right click on the selected object? 2) Awwww, the NSA uses the little kitty cat assistant instead of Clippy. Just like my mom. Until I gave her openoffice.
  • by waif69 (322360) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @11:06AM (#15582609) Journal
    Having worked for the gov't and knowing that some documents that I have signed and worked on should be redacted, this scares the crap out of me. It's not that I did anything that was illegal or "evil" as google would put it, I just don't want the "bad guys" (terrorists, etc.) knowing my name is attached to anything that resulted in their cohorts arrested or killed on the battlefield (also includes CONUS since 9/11).

    Normal average government workers should NOT be redacting, the people who redact should be those who know that if they screw-up, they may be screwing themselves or good friends in the process. Have people do it(redact) who have something to lose.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • by alshithead (981606) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @11:42AM (#15582900)
    Good point but I think you're looking deeper than need be. The users are probably just not fully understanding what they are doing. The full version of Adobe and Word are both great examples of applications that have so many options, tools, settings, and functions that the average user of these applications probably never even begins to understand 50% of what is available to them.
  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @11:48AM (#15582948) Homepage Journal

    If the user interface is designed well, you'll know exactly what to do, just as you'll know intuitively how to really redact text.

    If you're asking me to tell you how such a properly designed UI will work, you're asking the wrong person. It'd be interesting to get someone like Bruce Tognazzini [asktog.com] to give their take on it. Right now, all we can be fairly sure of is that the UI isn't working because people are constantly choosing the wrong tool for the job.

  • Clear as Mud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @11:52AM (#15582979) Homepage Journal
    Why doesn't Adobe upgrade their PDF generators to include a "Real Redact" button that actually deletes the redacted data? They could sell it to governments at the usual 1000x government markup rate, and the government would probably still save money vs the fallout from these illusory blackout follies. Neither the government nor Adobe is in the "freedom of information" camp. Maybe the government just refuses to buy an upgrade because that would save money overall.
  • by Nef (46782) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @11:57AM (#15583010)
    Here's my problem with this scenario though. You could probably describe most of the inner workings of said TV, be it SD or HD, LCD /CRT/Plasma, without much difficulty. I'll grant you, you probably couldn't recreate the thing (unless you were an EE or something similar) but you have a basic understanding of how things work.

    This represents a fundamental difference between how geeks/nerds think, and how the population at large thinks. Those technically inclined, whether they're gear-heads, pencil-pushers or computer geeks all take pride in knowing the HOW and WHY of the inner workings of almost everything around them. In fact, of the 3 examples I listed, the only real difference is their own proclivities. Gear-heads are gear-heads because they LOVE cars, computer geeks are computer geeks because they LOVE computers, and pencil-pushers (aka bean-counters, or Analysts in modern corporate-speak) love the truth in numbers!

    This raises the question, from my geek perspective, "Why do some people not care to educate themselves on how the things they use in their life work?" I mean, aside from the obvious benefit of saving a metric butt-ton on services most people pay an arm and a leg for, you can work on just about anything once you get bitten by the knowledge bug.

    Also, IMHO, probably the biggest advantage to being the geeky type is the personal pride one feels when accomplishing something difficult (such as fixing their PC, figuring out how to properly redact text in a particular file format, or rebuilding your engine)!! While I realize that pride can be a bad thing, when it's the kind of pride that makes you happy to be who you are, capable of the things you are, thats a HUGE confidence boost and spills over into so many other areas in life, you'd be silly not to try and take advantage of it!

    Oh, and one last thing. I wouldn't be so quick to assume those reading slashdot can't do some of the things you listed. In fact, knowing a few of our fellow /.'ers personally, there are at least 2 lawyers, 1 doctor and 5 accountants that I know. And they chose those professions because they wanted the money/prestige, or because they truly love what they do. No, I'd be more inclined to say that /.'ers may choose not to do those things on par with the average in society at large, but especially fields requiring intense study and years of education, most definitely pull at the heart-strings of a true geek.
  • by Mister Whirly (964219) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @12:08PM (#15583093) Homepage
    Does anyone think that this may not have been an oversight, and that someone knew the geeks would figure it out (like we did before) and wanted it to be leaked??? I know it's giving someone a lot of credit, but stranger things have happened...
  • by indifferent children (842621) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @12:58PM (#15583443)
    Maybe Adobe Acrobat needs a new menu item: Edit->Redact Then you only have to train people to use that feature rather than the backgound-color feature.
  • So he filtered his spreadsheet and sent the filtered lists to each department not knowing that he was sending each department the whole list under teh covers.

    I use that feature quite often and it was only yesterday that I noticed that the little triangle turns from black to dark blue when you’re viewing a filtered set. All this time I was thinking there really ought to be some sort of visual indication (other than the wonky row numbers).

  • Re:Maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by massysett (910130) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @01:03PM (#15583479) Homepage
    "may be impossible to see" are the operative words there. Ever used a Sharpie to black out the routing number on the bottom of a check? You can still make out the numbers. One way I've found to really black them out is to Sharpie the numbers, and then Xerox that check. Even Sharpies don't work as they might at first appear to.

    Real redactors use razors. You hold up one of those redacted documents and it looks like a punch card.
  • On Purpose? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pahroza (24427) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @01:30PM (#15583646)
    I wonder whether it's possible some of the people doing this really want the truth to come out? That someone "accidentally" screwed this up?

    Oh, wait, we're talking about the government?

    Nevermind.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 22, 2006 @02:19PM (#15584023)
    Hmmm, checking the PDF document properties, it looks like it was created with a Corel product (don't forget, document properties can leak information too).
  • Re:And these are... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheBrakShow (858570) on Thursday June 22, 2006 @04:44PM (#15584959)
    I have never understood why people are so damn lazy that they can't do a little research into what they are doing. People juat want results, not knowlege about what they are doing.

    You mean like when people are too lazy to spell check their posts on Slashdot? Look, most people can usually excuse spelling and grammar mistakes but your argument would be much stronger without the brazen hypocrisy.

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