from the and-the-closest-without-going-over... dept
Update: After all that, the CIA says this was just "an error" and a new version will be released tomorrow without the redactions. Of course, that raises other questions about how the error happened and how often such errors don't get caught. Original story below.
Steven Aftergood at the FAS (Federation of American Scientists) Secrecy Blog came across this interesting redaction of mundane information while perusing the "Studies in Intelligence" journals recently released by the CIA. In an article [pdf link] touting the purchase of a product that would forever change the world of the CIA's in-house video production department, the actual purchase price has been redacted.
If you can't read/see the picture, it says:
We bought our first Commodore Amiga in 1987, for less than [REDACTED] including software.Twenty-seven years later, this dollar amount still can only be speculated on. (Aftergood prices it out with Wikipedia's help.) It couldn't have been much, though. The preceding paragraph states:
We did not have a big budget, so we were tempted to buy the system with petty cash.Does the CIA actually believe some sort of irreparable rift in the National Security Complex might occur if this dollar amount from three decades ago (unadjusted for inflation) was made public? Probably not. Aftergood theorizes that it's a blanket exemption used to redact more sensitive dollar amounts and this innocent cost just became collateral damage during the rush to declassify several dozen documents in response to an FOIA lawsuit court order.
CIA seems to have adopted a declassification rule dictating that all of its expenditures, no matter how trivial, shall be withheld from disclosure, except in extraordinary cases (or the occasional mistake). The Agency might go on to argue that such a rule actually facilitates disclosure by expediting the declassification review process. That’s because instead of needing to pause to consider the potential ramifications of any individual spending disclosure, the Agency can proceed more quickly by simply withholding all such figures.So, there's the excuse for over-redaction, even if it isn't much of one. Aftergood points out that efforts have been made to scale back overbroad classification and redactions since 1997, but little if anything has come of those attempts -- part of the reason why so many FOIA requests end in lawsuits.
Also of note: the author's adoration of the new technology leads to the innocent Amiga being used for evil.
We are experimenting with photo enhancement and colorization of black-and-white photography. Future Executive Summaries will include "Turnerized" ground photos.While this CIA doc is good for a few laughs at the agency's overprotective tendencies, it must be noted that these documents stem from former CIA agent Jeffrey Scudder's FOIA request -- a request that ended his career and saw his house raided by the FBI, which seized every electronic device it came across. The CIA destroyed the life of a 19-year employee who had served the agency in Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq in order to withhold things like a three-decade-old computer purchase.