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Documents Reveal US Incompetence with Word, Iraq 419

Posted by Zonk
from the see-there's-this-thing-called-covering-your-tracks dept.
notNeilCasey writes "The U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority, which formerly governed Iraq, accidentally published Microsoft Word documents containing information never meant for the public, according to an article in Salon. By viewing the documents using the Track Changes feature in Word (.doc), the author has been able to reconstruct internal discussions from 2004 which reflect the optimism, isolation and incompetence of the American occupation. Download the author's source document or look for more yourself. 'Presumably, staffers at the CPA's Information Management Unit, which produced the weekly reports, were cutting and pasting large sections of text into the reports and then eliminating all but the few short passages they needed. Much of the material they were cribbing seems to have come from the kind of sensitive, security-related documents that were never meant to be available to the public. In fact, about half of the 20 improperly redacted documents I downloaded, including the March 28 report, contain deleted portions that all seem to come from one single, 1,000-word security memo. The editors kept pulling text from a document titled "Why Are the Attacks Down in Al-Anbar Province -- Several Theories." (The security memo and the last page of the March 28 report can be seen here, along with several other CPA documents that can be downloaded.)'"
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Documents Reveal US Incompetence with Word, Iraq

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  • by Silverlancer (786390) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:29AM (#19177747)
    How ironically appropriate...
    • by Prysorra (1040518) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:32AM (#19177791)
      It just floors me they feel they have to cover up even the signs of progress.

      The level of utter incompetence w.r.t. "controlling the narrative" just terrifies me.

      :-(
    • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:32AM (#19178619)
      I don't even remember how many years ago that there were lots of news stories on how MS Word stores "deleted" text within documents. When the story originally broke, lots of people went looking at company/government Word documents and found all sorts of embarassing stuff.

      Those who don't learn from history...

      Anyone using Word in any kind of sensitive capacity needs to know how to make sure the changes are all really gone. Training should address this specifically. Other word processors also store deleted text within a document and users of those need to also know how to make sure deleted text is really deleted.

      Perhaps it is time that word processors kept twin files - one the actual document, and if the user wants to track changes, another that stores deleted text. Or maybe encrypt the deleted text. It wouldn't keep everyone out of it, but it would keep most people from reading the deleted passages.
      • Those who don't learn from history...
        Are loyal Bush supporters!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)
          It seems rather foolish to think that ignorant people are all bush supporters. Keep on living in this world and blame Bush for everything you let go wrong with your life. After all he is at the same time the dumbest president alive that was able to conspire and outsmart most of the people in the US including all the opposing congressional leaders who non bush supporters seem to support. So it really doesn't say much about the big picture and neglect a lot of the little picture.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by N3wsByt3 (758224)
            "It seems rather foolish to think that ignorant people are all bush supporters."

            I agree. Let's say the vast majority of the most ignorant people are Bush supporters.

            • by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Friday May 18, 2007 @01:05PM (#19180979) Homepage
              The really scary ones aren't the idiots who support Bush... it's the genuinely intelligent ones. My extended family contains an inter-racial (Jewish, Asian) couple, both with advanced college degrees from great schools, and neither is religious. The absolutely love Bush, and are convinced that every Bush backed idea is the gospel truth (no global warming, the Iraq war is good, AT&T should be able to charge Google a toll to reach it's customers, etc). They also are convinced that Bush's Supreme Court will not reverse Rowe vs. Wade (oddly, my Republican friends who are very religious feel otherwise). They absolutely believe that all those terrible appointments, from Brown of Hurricane Katrina fame, to Wolfowitz, were great appointments, and that Democrats are to blame for their failures. They think Colin Powell was fired for his own incompetence.

              In other words, they believe whatever Bush tells them, even though they are super-smart. It's a crazy world. A few such guys even seem to hang out here on /.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Analogy Man (601298)
            I agree it is foolish to assume all idiots are Bush supporters...there are so many idiots and so few Bush supporters left. His approval rating is down to the hardcore loyalists that would eat glass before they spoke ill of any Republican from Texas.

            I commend you for not going down the "when Clinton was president path" with your response. That is also an equally flawed bit of logic along the lines of a 9 year old justifying throwing rocks at cars with "Jimmy did it too!"

          • by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday May 18, 2007 @01:00PM (#19180917) Homepage Journal

            he is at the same time the dumbest president alive that was able to conspire and outsmart
            Why is there people in this world unfamiliar with the concept of a "front man"?
            You really think the Bush Administration is a one-man show?
          • We don't blame Bush for the things that have gone wrong with our lives. We blame him for invading a sovereign nation on trumped up charges, dismantling constitutional protections of our most basic and precious rights, providing welfare in the form of tax relief to the wealthiest individuals and corporations, usurping power for the executive branch, presiding over the most secretive administration in US history, botching the job in Afghanistan, letting Osama escape, botching the job in Iraq, fucking up the economy, raising the deficit to undreamed of heights, fucking over the environment, billions of dollars of cash missing in Iraq, no WMDs, increased threat of domestic terrorism, fucking up on port security, firing republican DAs midterm for investigating republican wrongdoing and/or not investigating democratic wrongdoing, squandering international good-will and alienating our allies, setting back the progress of science in America, pandering to the religious right, imposing un-republican ideals of Federal power over States rights, borrowing against future generations of citizens to fund his fiscally irresponsible policies, and being a smarmy, self congratulatory, ignorant frat-boy with a track record of business failures and DWI convictions.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday May 18, 2007 @11:01AM (#19179027) Homepage Journal

        Perhaps it is time that word processors kept twin files - one the actual document, and if the user wants to track changes, another that stores deleted text. Or maybe encrypt the deleted text.

        Or, just publish your documents as PDF files, no?
      • by Rei (128717) on Friday May 18, 2007 @11:10AM (#19179157) Homepage
        If I wasn't so overloaded with other personal tasks, I'd be sorely tempted to write a spider to dig through government websites, download files that might have hidden content (.doc, .pdf, etc), strip out any hidden content, and look for suspicious words that are found close together. Non-hidden content on the subject would be weighed negatively to help filter out, say, uncensored reports on a scandal. The suspicious word list could be gotten by compiling a list of all scandals within the past years, both congressional and executive, and looking for key people's names, events, places, etc. The docs could then be presented in order of suspicion for manual perusal.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)
          People are already doing this. If you have the same political beliefs as they do, you will see everything in the news eventually. But if your looking for an unbiased review, You better clear your schedule and start making it happen yourself.
    • The ultimate irony is Microsoft helping expose the tyrannies of untouchables in government and providing a true level of transparency. Combine total MS vendor lock in with data archiving and tech-ignorant workers and you have a solution that, in this instance, has given the people actual real information. Much like Nixon did himself in through a tape recorder, the Bush administration is doing the same thing, aided by Microsoft software.

      This would not have happened if presidential staffers were using Linux

  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:31AM (#19177777) Homepage Journal
    Maybe I'm not paying enough attention, but I'm not sure why the musings about why attacks stopped in Al-Anbar in early 2004 are so particularly embarrassing. It seems to me that they were just trying to figure out what happened; I guess it might show some degree of cluelessness on the part of Intelligence, but, uh, they gotta figure stuff out at some point, right?

    • by Control Group (105494) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:44AM (#19177947) Homepage
      That kind of defeatist attitude doesn't help anyone. We're trying to mock the government, here, and then you show up with your "logic." You're such a buzzkill.
    • by timeOday (582209) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:51AM (#19178037)
      Why do you think it's supposed to have been embarrasing? It's just somewhat interesting. It's history. That said, I'm not sure how much new information it provides. The fact that America had no idea what we were getting into is as plain as a 50-foot banner stretched across an aircraft carrier.
      • by CmdrGravy (645153) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:38AM (#19178705) Homepage
        I think the embarrasment comes from the fact that the situation was handled incompetently.

        Incompetently because the report writer doesn't appear to have a clue why the attacks in that province are decreasing which tends to suggest that the administration has no clear idea what is actually driving the attacks or why they're happening. It's possible that it's just the report writer who's in the dark about this but the complete lack of success in dealing with terrorism and insurgency in Iraq since then leads me to believe the problem was more widespread.

        If you don't have the correct information or don't understand the situation on the ground then it's very hard to form any effective plan for reaching your goals which is what appears to have happened with Iraq. Given what we were told about how the war was to be fought beforehand and how everything was in place to address the aftermath I would say the handling of the situation which has led to the position we are in now speaks of great incompetence.
        • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday May 18, 2007 @12:31PM (#19180361) Journal
          there are several things that could have happened which lead to the confusion. In all out firefights, if the other side isn't completely obliterated, they try to cart off their dead to hide the identities of their families who might also be supporting them. It could be that another operation inadvertently killed some of the people behind the attacks and we need to asses who, why and where or if this is even the case. It had nothing to do with incompetence, rather an attempt to link unrelated activities to explain the current situation.

          We have had serial rapist from other states who were caught in that other state and it took years to put the pieces together and link the two. With modern communication and all this time frame has narrowed a bunch and sometimes it can be linked before they goto trial. But this shows nothing of the incompetence of the investigators who have no evidence pointing to the person in particular and still cannot figure out who is doing it. When the guy get detained in the other state, all they know it the rapes stopped and they need to figure out why. Did someone die? did someone get arrested somewhere and so on?

          But that "connecting the dots" is relatively easy compared to the situations in Iraq. You don't know a lot of times when someone dies and their body is carted off and either buried in secrete or mutilated and dropped off in the street to make it appear as if they were attacked by the insurgence or terrorist. In the later case, it makes it appear that the people behind the violence are innocent civilians caught in the cross fire. And to think that any of this shows incompetence really goes to a deeper level of you lack of understanding. Now having the changes inside the word document after it was released to the public shows incompetence. But this isn't any where near the same level as you are intending to imply.
    • by hey! (33014) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:09AM (#19178275) Homepage Journal
      Well, it just shows what we already knew, but in more detail. That is, the CPA had no idea what a mess things were going to turn into, even though the signs were there.

      It's like watching somebody who has driven off a cliff, speculating as they fall about the lack of damage to the car.
  • Very high competance and ability shown in the Documentation Process! Of course the what is documented might be fiascos, fumbles and general incompetance in other areas. But still it would qualify for the ISO 9007 (or whatever is their latest version) certification.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Serves me right for posting without even the summary carefully. Looks like there is incompetance even in the documentation process! Releasing docs without purging history. Wow! Bad Govt Agency! No ISO 9007 for you!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417)
        You show me one auditing company who would disqualify a gov agency from receiving an ISO certificate and I show you an auditing company that never gets government contracts anymore.
  • Here are the elusive Microsoft fanboys. We don't notice them because they are so insignifiant and incompetent and unglamorous and dull.
  • by multipartmixed (163409) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:33AM (#19177807) Homepage
    C-A, C-C, C-N, C-V, A-F, A

    (create new document that looks like, but is not, the old one)

    before sending onward. Otherwise, somebody WILL find something untoward, even if it's not track changes, it could be a now-unused hunk of crap in the OLE2 file, etc.
    • by Stavr0 (35032)
      I prefer
      ^A ^C ^N AltV U AltF A

      This way, any hidden formatting is destroyed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by VertigoAce (257771)
      Alternatively, from the main menu, select Prepare -> Inspect Document. That will check for "Comments, Revisions, Versions, and Annotations", "Document Properties and Personal Information", "Custom XML Data", "Headers, Footers, and Watermarks", "Hidden Text" (you choose which ones you want to look for and it will report.

      It doesn't show you the exact text that it found, but does let you remove all instances of each category. The idea is that you have a document that you actually edit and then use this tool
    • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:52AM (#19178045) Homepage
      The NSA publishes some very useful guides for dealing with sensitive information here:
      http://www.nsa.gov/snac/ [nsa.gov]

      Specifically, how to properly redact a Microsoft Word .doc is detailed in this document:
      http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/dod/nsa-redact.pdf [fas.org]
      • by ohzopants (1000625) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:30AM (#19178569)
        That pdf link is very interesting. But it's a bit hard to take a document seriously when the ms word screenshots they used have the animated cat (for help) turned on.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by massysett (910130)
        Yikes, how to safely redact Word documents? I'm not sure that is possible. It's actually scary that NSA would dare publish guidance on this topic. Word is a proprietary black box, and all I can do is shake my head if NSA is dumb enough to keep any sensitive information in Word and then release the documents!
  • Disallow MS Word (Score:3, Informative)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:35AM (#19177835)
    This is a great reason to disallow the use of MS Word in government. Does ODF support this change tracking stuff? Or should they stick to ASCII files?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      ODF as used in OpenOffice/StarOffice supports change tracking, in arguably less flakey fashion than MS Word - so long as you're not roundtripping the documents between MS Word .doc files and Open Office file conversions, that is! That's a recipe for disaster. This is, as usual, largely microsoft's fault (I've had similarly negative experiences roundtripping change-tracked documents through different versions of MS Word, really).

    • by symbolic (11752) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:40AM (#19177889)
      Actually, it's a great reason to continue using Microsoft word.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        There's probably no better way to leak information than 'fucking' up a redaction. You then have a document from official sources and the leaker can feign incompetence with technology.
  • Track Changes... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hejog (816106) *
    I remember when I had a job offer and could track the changes of the contract they emailed me, was interesting to see the changes they made! (in a good way, suprisingly) Is track changes on by default? I assume so...
  • by parvenu74 (310712) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:37AM (#19177859)
    This is outstanding news for the F/OSS community! My hope is that the "there's got to be someone else I can blame this on" politicians file charges against Microsoft under provisions of the Patriot Act for leaking vital government secrets. The irony in such a case would be delicious: charges without real justification leveled against a monopolistic company who markets software that doesn't really work. With each side forced to disprove a negative proposition, this should give the F/OSS community a little more time to charge forward while MS pukes all over themselves.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Can we charge MS under the PATRIOT Act yet???

      Haven't you read the Patriot Act (I or II)?

      Brother, you can charge anybody with the Patriot Act. Your grandma bitching about taxes? Mind control terrorist. Bill Gates giving vaccines to Africa? Funding terrorists. You for posting about the US government online? Cyberterrorist.

      They got labels for everybody.

      Government lawyers don't investigate whether or not someone's violating the Patriot Act, government lawyers find someone they don't like

    • NOOO! Then I would be morally obliged to take Microsoft's side in a battle! I don't think my poor brain could handle that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:37AM (#19177861)
    Remember when that Cat Schwartz girl from TV posted a cropped photo that accidentally had her boobs in the embedded Photoshop thumbnail? This is just like that, except Photoshop has been replaced with Word, the TV hostess has been replaced with the US Military, and the sweet sweet woman parts have been replaced with the absolute idiocy of those in charge of an ostensibly conquered nation.

    I for one was happier about the tits.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:38AM (#19177867) Journal
    Right now, I've taken a first glance but I don't even want to read this document as it'll just lead to a bad day (I'll read it all later).

    But if you're interested in stuff about the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority), I would highly recommend a book I read a few months ago entitled Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone [rajivc.com] by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Pretty much details what's going on there, doesn't shove a lot of ideas down your throat but does do a good job of selectively relaying details that starts one thinking.

    I could rant for hours on the information in this book but I'll try to relay one or two things that stuck with me. My biggest problem with how things were handled out there (one of the many issues the book covers) is that we had people more suitable for the job of handling post war Iraq but either sent them home or blocked their attempts to help because they didn't avidly support the person we wanted to take control of post-war Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi. If anyone was seen as competition for Chalabi, they were replaced with someone who was loyal to the American Republican party. The author reports that interview questions consisted of things like views on abortion or even your voting record. People with little or no past experience were put in charge of insanely high level authority.

    We went into Iraq with the only plan to overthrow the government. In my opinion, we have the best army in the world and they did their job better than anyone else could. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we have some of the worst leaders in the world and, as a result, what ensued from overthrowing said government is a pretty bad debacle. I heard this author speak on NPR and was impressed so I hope you read this book to hear what Chandrasekaran experienced visiting Iraq. The information in this Word document doesn't even begin to describe what Chandrasekaran details in his book.
    • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:53AM (#19178053) Journal
      The military is designed to attack and subjugate an enemy. It is trained fundamentally to kill the enemies and destroy their country. Take a machine like that use to build a country? To build friendship and cooperation? What a stupid idea. Military is designed to inspire fear and respect, and may be hatred as a side effect. But dont blame the politicians. Blame the Generals. The way the admin thinks, "Someone has to do it. And we have only military over there. So let them do it".The Generals should have stood firm and said, "We are not trained to get municipal sewer system running. We are trained to bomb sewage treatment plants. Dont give this shitty job to us. Send someone else".

      An officer is supposed to protect the soldiers under his command. It is the duty of the Generals to make sure that the job given to his division is within the capability of his troops. Just because the civilian authority orders "Find a cure for cancer", they should not embark on ordering their colnels and majors to mess with test tubes.

      • by flyingsquid (813711) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:57AM (#19178959)
        The military is designed to attack and subjugate an enemy. It is trained fundamentally to kill the enemies and destroy their country. Take a machine like that use to build a country? To build friendship and cooperation? What a stupid idea.

        The American military used to be pretty good at this sort of thing. Think post-WWII Japan and Germany. But I think you accurately describe the situation with the modern U.S. military. There are other nations that are better at policing and nation-building, so perhaps if we'd gone in with more international support, this wouldn't have been such an issue.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pipingguy (566974) *
        "We are not trained to get municipal sewer system running."

        I've had this document linked at my site for a long time:
        http://www.usace.army.mil/publications/eng-manuals /em1110-1-4008/c-3.pdf [army.mil]

        I think the US Army had something to do with its creation, and I don't expect you to read or understand it.
    • by demachina (71715) on Friday May 18, 2007 @11:52AM (#19179809)
      "support the person we wanted to take control of post-war Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi."

      Charlie Rose had an interview [charlierose.com] recently with 3 Iraqi journalists, all of whom are currently in the U.S. studying Journalism, or really escaping the oppressive violence and smoldering pit that is their homeland thanks to George W, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Rummy and Wolfy.

      One of them spelled it out, pretty much all the Iraqi exiles who swept in to take over Iraq after the invasion are viewed as "thieves" by the Iraqi people. Chalabi is at the top of the list since he is still under indictment in Jordan for a gigantic bank fraud.

      One of facts about Iraq a lot of people seem to gloss over is there is a gigantic pool of oil riches in that country and the people who gain control over the government can enrich themselves and their friends with that control. EVERYONE jockeying for control there, Iraqi and American alike, is angling for control over its oil wealth because they know if they get it they will end up like Saudi princes. This simple reason is why the Shia have zero incentive to pass legislation to equitably share the oil wealth with Kurds and Sunnis and without that there is ALWAYS going to be a civil war there. I'm not sure you will every strike a deal everyone will consider fair.

      A recent report suggests large quantities of Iraq's oil is disappearing in to the black market to enrich the people who have gained control over the wells or pipelines, who are mostly Shia in the South and Kurds in the north (though its also possible oil production is also being exaggerated).

      I'm not really sure Iraq will ever find peace as long as there is oil wealth to fight over. The fight for control of oil is a source of strife everyplace it is found today. The original Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was for control of oil, and I'm not sure the corrupt Emir of Kuwait has any more right to control it than Saddam did. The genocide in Darfur is largely over the oil fields there. A key element in the coup attempt in Venezuela was over oil fields which were recently nationalized. In Russia a bunch of kleptocrats suckered Yeltsin in to giving them control of the oil and gas fields and they got rich, Putin threw the ring leader in jail and seized control of the oil for himself and his dictatorial government. The Saudi royal family rules Saudi Arabia with an iron fist to insure they get the lions share of the oil riches. Not much chance of real Democracy in Saudi Arabia because the Saudi royal family wouldn't get most of the oil revenue in a real Democracy. Iran is in the mess its in after an American backed coup threw out a popular leader who nationalized the oil fields at Britain's expense. The U.S. installed the Shah as dictator who gave U.S. companies control over the oil fields to Britain's dismay. The Shah was so hated he was overthrown in favor of the Ayatollah so there is a repressive theocracy there that hates the U.S. to this day as a result. Its kind of routine in countries on the west coast of Africa with oil wealth for the people in power to pocket much of the oil wealth while most of their countrymen starve.

      Not sure you will find Peace in Iraq until you just partition the country, let the ethnic cleansing finish, and let each of the three factions control their own oil fields. The Sunnis were the odd man out but recent oil discoveries in their base in Anbar province suggest all three groups could have their own oil fields. The down side to this is Turkey will probably never tolerate an independent Kurdistan waging a guerrilla war to try to seize the Kurdish regions of Turkey.
  • by mikey_boy (125590) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:39AM (#19177875)
    Had they not heard of PDF?! Why anyone would publish Word, ODF, or anything like this I don't understand. Convert to PDF, and job done.
  • of course if you use a format that you can just link the formatting in at the end then you are gold but
    all final documents should always be converted to text to break the meta data chain.

    even if you have to save the document to a cdrw and then shred the disc when you are done remove the meta data
    or replace the meta data with the "correct" public data never have a document with privileged meta data "floating around"
  • by Tridus (79566) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:42AM (#19177913) Homepage
    Any government branch that releases information to the public (both "sensitive" and more mundane information) has a policy for how that information is to be released. That may be a set of instructions for how to make sure you're not unintentionally releasing extra information, or for more secured cases simply that the file must go through a group that does the process for you.

    Obviously somebody skipped a step. Whats actually in the file is more interesting then how it got there, given that all we're talking about is human error.
  • Control the Metadata (Score:5, Informative)

    by felixdzerzhinsky (809662) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:44AM (#19177937)
    Try contoling the Metadata with a tool that even Microsoft provides for free. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/HA011400341 033.aspx [microsoft.com] It can happen with .pdf as well: http://news.com.com/U.S.+military+security+defeate d+by+copy+and+paste/2100-1002_3-5694982.html [com.com] Not sure about .odf
  • by wiredog (43288) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:44AM (#19177939) Journal
    In this excerpt [salon.com] the last bit (Item 2, at the bottom of the page) looks like a pretty good analysis.
  • by killmenow (184444) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:46AM (#19177959)
    Whenever I want to publish something in redacted form, I just change the color of the redacted text to black on black, then export to PDF. Duh!
  • Summary (Score:5, Funny)

    by N8F8 (4562) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:50AM (#19178019)
    I hate (US/Bush/Republicans/US Military) and I'll believe anything (Iran/Chirac/Democrats/Liberal Reporters) say they reinforces my beliefs without questioning anything. Lots of pinheads write lots of reports for other pinheads while other people do real work.
    • Re:Summary (Score:4, Informative)

      by JoeZeppy (715167) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:19AM (#19178387)
      I hate (US/Bush/Republicans/US Military) and I'll believe anything (Iran/Chirac/Democrats/Liberal Reporters) say they reinforces my beliefs without questioning anything. Lots of pinheads write lots of reports for other pinheads while other people do real work. --

      Or conversely:

      I hate (brown-skinned foreigners/Hillary/Democrats/liberals) and I'll believe anything (Gonzalez/Bush/Republicans/Fox News) say they reinforces my beliefs without questioning anything. Lots of pinheads write positive spin for other pinheads while other people do criminal acts and gut the constitution in the name of freedom and Jesus.

      Ain't political discourse fun?

  • Obviously the *entire* US is incompetent, the evidence being (a) its use of Microsoft Word, and (b) Iraq, *or* (c) both.

    Thanks. I understand. Thanks. No need to keep beating the drum. Thanks.

    (Where would I be without /.? The mind boggles.)
  • The deleted text (Score:5, Informative)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918.gmail@com> on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:08AM (#19178255)
    Here's the deleted text that was repeatedly copied/cropped in their documents. This shows how absurdly inept those in charge were. Note that the most likely theory is the one the administrator rebuts as "a boring theory".

    Why are the Attacks Down in Al Anbar Province - Several Theories

    1. Over the past month attacks against Coalition Forces in Al Anbar province have gone from over 20 per day to next to none. There are a number of theories for why this is. It is entirely possible that it is merely a blip on the screen or a statistical aberration and we will return to larger numbers of attacks, but it has held for nearly five weeks now and both military commanders and Anbar's citizens are starting to openly talk about it and offer their theories for why it is happening. Among the reasons given:

    Rounding up the Bums: MG Swannack and all military commanders (as well as GC) believe that the many high yield raids of the past weeks have made a difference both in getting off the streets some of the leaders and financiers of the resistance and especially some of the technical experts that attackers rely on to carry out their attacks. This has had the spin off effect of causing others to go underground out of fear that they might be next. Most raids also leave in their wake a number of innocents who were either rounded up and detained or had their houses busted up. These can conceivably lead to bitterness over the occupation and spawn new attacks. But there appears to be sufficient care in how the attacks are carried out, adequate information in the community about the mild reality of detention, and sufficient civil affairs clean up afterwards that this has not been a major factor.

    Crossed the Line: Violence in Iraq is a form of political discourse as well as being culturally acceptable for settling disputes and scores. Thus for a people which is nearly universal in its opposition to being occupied, attacking the occupier is a natural reaction and is widely accepted, even by those who are friendly to us. "It is nothing personal," one businessman told me, "I like you and believe you could be bringing us a better future, but I still sympathize with those who attack the coalition because it is not right for Iraq to be occupied by foreign military forces." Thus a low level of violence has been widely accepted in Al Anbar and those carrying out the attacks have even been the recipients of admiration and praise. But with the spate of attacks in mid to late November, culminating with the shootdown of the Chinook, there may have been a sense that the insurgents had crossed a line. This was reinforced strongly by General Abizaid when he came here on the heels of that incident and told some 70 Sheikhs and community leaders that he planned to unleash hell if they kept it up. It was further reinforced by the dropping of several JADMs which may have served to get the attention of the province. It is possible that Anbar's leaders realized they had crossed a line and reeled the attacks in.

    Operational Pause: A boring theory is that the terrorists are in an operational pause, needing to regroup after the recent spate of roundups. There are very few persons we have met who subscribe to this.

    Occupation Ending: A number of individuals have expressed satisfaction at the announcement of the new political calendar, although they don't appear to fully understand it. What has caught their attention is the simple expression that in June a sovereign Iraqi government will be in place. What they have gotten wrong is the idea that the military will be leaving Iraq in June, which one individual said he was sure was a major factor in the diminishing attacks. Oh well, this is one time it might be best that folks don't fully understand things. By June, when there is a transition of the force rather than a pullout, we will have a new set of challenges anyway, but if this bought us some months of peace it will be worth the confusion.

    Project Money Flowing: Some individuals have expressed satis

    • Having read my share of int briefs, that's actually a pretty good analysis with what looks to me like an honest attempt at figuring out what is going on.

      I see no incompetence there - I see good, honest staffwork. Perhaps a touch informal in places, but that's about it.

      Intelligence is a slippery fish, not an exact science. It is normal to have a great deal of uncertainty.

      DG
  • Secrets? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cybermage (112274) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:10AM (#19178285) Homepage Journal
    I'm all for the Nelson-esque "Ha, Ha!" on this one, but isn't this Salon article revealing state secrets in some way.

    I'm not looking to troll here. I'm serious. Wouldn't it have been better to quietly bring it to their attention than to go public. If this is typical government ignorance, who knows how wide-spread the problem is. Could revealing something like this to the public be considered treason?

    I don't think the fact that the articles are right out in the open is any defense. Anyone who's close enough to see troops knows where they are, but it could still be considered treason to pick up a phone and call the enemy and tell them where troops are.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thanatopsis (29786)
      No. Because they didn't actual reveal the information - the government did. No pointing out that the government has published documents that reveal them to be inept isn't treason. It would be treason if the author were actively collaborating with the enemy. It has become fashionable by the right in the last 30 years to accuse the media of treason. Re-publishing something the government has published already in the public domain isn't treason.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by HBI (604924)
        The document is FOUO and should never have been released to the public, but FOUO is not classified. Read more on FOUO here [tamu.edu].
    • Re:Secrets? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Control Group (105494) * on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:40AM (#19178731) Homepage
      No.

      The authors of the Constitution were very wary of the word "treason" being thrown around, and so were highly specific in what treason is. Article III, Section 3:

      Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.


      Salon certainly hasn't levied war against the United States. I don't think a reasonable case can be made that releasing these documents in any way aid or comforts the US' enemies (except in the loosest possible sense that they might enjoy some schadenfreude).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:20AM (#19178407)
    ...how previous wars would have fared had they been subjected to the microscopic scrutiny of today...
  • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:42AM (#19178765)

    I opened up Word 2k3. It seems that under Options -> Security (I know, a crazy place to expect the government to look). There is a checkbox that reads

    Warn before printing, saving or sending a file that contains tracked changes or comments.

    I just tested it, and yes this feature seems to work.

    Oh, sorry, what I meant is for a large no-bid contract, I can help the military prevent this in the future via real-time user warnings.

  • And this is why... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ericferris (1087061) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:57AM (#19178963) Homepage
    This is why it's hard to subscribe to these huge conspiracy theories about anything involving the Federal Government. I mean, if you want to successfully lead a conspiracy, you have to be competent and you have to cover your tracks.

    This latest example of bumbling incompetence shows us that you cannot trust the Feds to do either.

    That's why we should fear the Feds when they want to help us: considering their track records at taking care of their own problems, only a suicidal madman would trust them to manage other people's lives.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Glowing Fish (155236)
      Unless...they are just pretending to be incompetent to lull you into a false sense of security?
  • by gelfling (6534) on Friday May 18, 2007 @11:13AM (#19179193) Homepage Journal
    Seems to me what's lacking is security taxonomy overlay for classes of documents. If you assign a document to a class of security then there are certain operations which are required and others which are prohibited.
  • DMCA violation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jridley (9305) on Friday May 18, 2007 @11:58AM (#19179887)
    Wouldn't that make the reporter guilty of circumventing an access control mechanism?

    That DMCA sure is a versatile tool, isn't it?
  • by jgoemat (565882) on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:33PM (#19182399)
    A company I worked with had decided to switch from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice to save money instead of upgrading to the new version of MS Office. A week later everyone was running MS Office again. Apparently one of the executives sent out a Word document that had some embarrassing comments he made "deleted", but they were still there because of "Track Changes". When you opened up the document in OpenOffice, you could see them easily. I was just a peon, or I would have tried to explain that if he had been using OpenOffice himself it wouldn't have happened, and that someone knowledgeable could have viewed them in MS Office anyway. Instead they decided to spend tens of thousands on new licenses to go back to MS Office...
  • by dave562 (969951) on Friday May 18, 2007 @05:50PM (#19185339) Journal
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?fa milyid=144e54ed-d43e-42ca-bc7b-5446d34e5360&displa ylang=en [microsoft.com] "The Remove Hidden Data Tool" One of the girls upstairs in the PR department ran into the same problem today. It took all of three minutes on Google to find the solution to the problem.

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