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Documents Reveal US Incompetence with Word, Iraq

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the see-there's-this-thing-called-covering-your-tracks dept.

Software 419

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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"Nothing for you to see here. Please move along." (5, Funny)

Silverlancer (786390) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177747)

How ironically appropriate...

Re:"Nothing for you to see here. Please move along (5, Insightful)

Prysorra (1040518) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

:-(

Re:"Nothing for you to see here. Please move along (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178637)

Why is parent modded troll?

This "Feature" Has Been Known For Years (5, Interesting)

NeverVotedBush (1041088) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Same thing (-1, Offtopic)

BadERA (107121) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177755)

No surprise, after all, they're the same situation. A foreign force is attempting to occupy your homeland. Volume and quality of information is scarce, often due to decisions from people at the top. Support is never what you expect. Cost overruns across the board. Bloat. Local insurgencies.

Re:Same thing (5, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177985)

Volume and quality of information is scarce, often due to decisions from people at the top. Support is never what you expect. Cost overruns across the board. Bloat. Local insurgencies.

So...Iraq has been invaded by MSCEs?

Re:Same thing (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178025)

Fo coruse, I maent "MCSE".

Re:Same thing (1)

Buelldozer (713671) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178253)

Oh thanks, I just spewed coffee into my keyboard!

Re:Same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178683)

"So...Iraq has been invaded by MSCEs?"

I think you mean MCSEs -- Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers

And besides, you're wrong. The Iraqis are way too smart to fall for that crap.

The deleted section from the sample (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177777)

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?

Re:The deleted section from the sample (-1, Troll)

frazzydee (731240) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177925)

Have you looked at the actual word document? Here's one sentence in particular that really sounds like they want the attacks to continue:
"Over the past month attacks against the Coalition Forces in Al Anbar province have gone down from over 20 per day to next to none. There are a number of theories for why this is. It is entirely possible that this 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."

So they're not merely pondering why attacks have decreased; it would seem that they want them to continue. After all, it would be difficult to justify staying in Iraq if there are no attacks against them.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (2, Insightful)

x_MeRLiN_x (935994) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177975)

It only reads that way if you have a preconceived idea of why America invaded Iraq. ;)

Re:The deleted section from the sample (4, Interesting)

frazzydee (731240) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178033)

yeah, I think you're right..everything became much clearer after actually posting ;)
Actually, a little further down in the document, it even says "the sharp and now continuing drop in attacks does give the coalition a much-needed respite whose continuation will be critical...Reinforcing this trend...will be crucial to ultimate success"

So it looks like I was wrong, sorry. Mods, please mod grandparent down.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177991)

Could you point out the key phrase(s) in there that support your theory? I'm having a hard time finding them.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (5, Interesting)

Himring (646324) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178169)

I take it you've never been in the military or worked in a large corporation. You NEVER write down anything that you don't want others to know. Malicious dealings are always done voice, behind closed doors. Motives are hidden. Orders are given that totally mask the real intent but achieves the result. The last thing they would do is actually write down something to damn them if for no other reason than what is going on right now on /. with these released documents. No, I have read TFA, but I doubt there's any real incriminating information. Or, if anything, they want your to believe they are incompetent. The rules are few: keep your enemies closer than your allies. Always compromise. Never show true motives. Appear agreeable. Appear incompetent if need be, but never malicious, gaming or ulterior.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (5, Funny)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177947)

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.

Parent is +5 Informative (-1)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177983)

nicely done.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (5, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178291)

That this post is titled "Documents Reveal US Incompetence with Word, Iraq" leads me to believe that at least the Slashdot editorial staff wanted it to come off as embarrassing. At the very least, a defense that it is not embarrassing is appropriate.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (4, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178275)

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.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178293)

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.

To play the devil's conspiracy theorist, perhaps the top brass wanted arranged for the attacks in Al-Anbar.

Or far more likely they were worried that Al-Anbar allied with the insurgents.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (0, Flamebait)

chrb (1083577) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178589)

For a start, one of the given reasons is that many Iraqis thought that the coming handover of authority meant US forces would be leaving Iraq. Hence no reason to attack them anymore. This is, of course, the exact opposite of what Bush has been saying would happen if US troops left. The other reason to be embarrassed is the misplaced optimism that rounding up suspects (including a large number of innocents), bombing towns, and the threat of massive, indiscriminate violence against the people was actually working.

Re:The deleted section from the sample (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178599)

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?

Yeah, knee jerk reactions are much better as has been proven on slashdot.

I'm really glad that we have another arm chair general who's trying to tell us the solution to these problems are so obvious but at the same time doesn't clue us lessor beings into the truth behind it all.

Thanks for all the insight, peckerwood.

The embarrassing (or rather annoying) part: (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178653)

That we, the general population, have to endure severe cuts into our civil liberties, up to the point of the creation of a veritable police state, that the US government puts pressure on other countries to release sensitive data for them to peer into, that civilists are being pulled in front of military courts because they might have said or released something, while at the same time the people who beat us with the big bad "loose lips" club are negligent beyond belief when it comes to securing their own information distribution.

That irks me. Not the data itself, but the carelessness.

And THOSE people should be entrusted with our personal information? HAH!

Always see the bright side. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177783)

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:Always see the bright side. (2, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177827)

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:Always see the bright side. (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178679)

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.

Microsoft fanboys (2, Funny)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177805)

Here are the elusive Microsoft fanboys. We don't notice them because they are so insignifiant and incompetent and unglamorous and dull.

Re:Microsoft fanboys (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177843)

Microsoft's whizzo bullshit bites yet another ass.

I learned a long time ago... (4, Interesting)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177807)

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.

Re:I learned a long time ago... (1)

Stavr0 (35032) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177915)

I prefer
^A ^C ^N AltV U AltF A

This way, any hidden formatting is destroyed.

Or just convert it to a PDF (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19177955)

Not everyone has access to MSWord, after all. Meanwhile, PDF readers are free.

Re:I learned a long time ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178001)

I've found all kinds of stuff in Word documents by simply dumping the files. I think Word just saves everything in memory. It's really a pretty lousy word processor.

Re:I learned a long time ago... (2, Informative)

VertigoAce (257771) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178039)

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 on the copy you intend to distribute.

Re:I learned a long time ago... (4, Informative)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178045)

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]

Re:I learned a long time ago... (5, Funny)

ohzopants (1000625) | more than 7 years ago | (#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:I learned a long time ago... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178673)

I can't be the only one who finds it funny that the first page of a document on redacting documents claims, "This page intentionally left blank," can I?

Re:I learned a long time ago... (2, Insightful)

massysett (910130) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178699)

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!

Re:I learned a long time ago... (1)

DavidWeight (1075593) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178141)

Or the convert to pdf before sending out - makes sure it can't be changed and removes all extra information

Re:I learned a long time ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178313)

removes all extra information

HAHAHAHAH. No [slashdot.org] .

Disallow MS Word (2, Informative)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 7 years ago | (#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:Disallow MS Word (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19177877)

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).

Re:Disallow MS Word (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178475)

I've found OpenOffice's change tracking to be more flaky than MS Word's. I particular miss Word's "Accept this change" feature; OO.o's version of it is a dialogue box listing the changes and is far less helpful.

That said, they're both flaky. They both dramatically slow down operation. And they both lead to weird formatting glitches.

I wish the feature worked better. I use it for editing down Shakespeare plays. It's useful to be able to look back and see what I've cut, and sometimes I change my mind about the cuts. That's something plain old undo doesn't really handle well. I've used both Word and OO.o for it. I use OO.o because it's about equally buggy and therefore the price is right.

Re:Disallow MS Word (5, Insightful)

symbolic (11752) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177889)

Actually, it's a great reason to continue using Microsoft word.

Re:Disallow MS Word (2, Insightful)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178311)

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.

Re:Disallow MS Word (0)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177921)

Government use of MS Word should be disallowed because some numpty pencil pusher doesn't know how some of its features work? What a compelling argument that is.

Re:Disallow MS Word (4, Insightful)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178217)

Government use of MS Word should be disallowed because some numpty pencil pusher doesn't know how some of its features work? What a compelling argument that is.
It's a perfectly good argument. Using a tool or designing a part that doesn't allow a critical mistake is standard practice. Google for Poka Yoke.

There is all type of sensitive information floating around the government. It goes to congress critters, their aids, through email, etc. Do you know another way to ensure that none of these people ever accidentally create documents with change tracking turned on? I didn't think so.

Re:Disallow MS Word (1)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178173)

No. This is a great reason to have highly sensitive agencies like the CPA job out IT based on something other than lowest bid. This is is simply an example of an IT protocol that is ignorant of a very well-known and well-documented security concern.

Track changes works well for some, and is not a flaw. Writers love it, lawyers fear it. And therefore each should set it up differently. The fact that the CPA is a bunch of security (and culturally, and politically) ignorant yahoos does not make it necessary to replace Word with something else. It makes it necessary to replace the CPA with something else.

Re:Disallow MS Word (1)

andy_t_roo (912592) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178429)

"It makes it necessary to replace the CPA with something else" after all the bother you went through to put them there in the first place?

Re:Disallow MS Word (I take back what I said) (4, Informative)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178529)

Okay, I just did a quick search and found out that you can't really turn off change tracking. You can hide it, of course, but it's still in there tracking. So the only way to get rid of those changes is to accept or reject each one individually. The information is here [microsoft.com] (this is for Word 2007, but I assume it's the same for previous versions as well). This is a silly and cumbersome thing to have to do, and you're right -- it makes it a bad way to distribute documents.

Now, the suggestions elsewhere around here that they simply standardize on PDF would solve everything, and they could still use Word if they're used to it. But posting .doc files (which has never seemed like a good idea in any area of business or government for countless reasons anyway -- why distribute something that can be so easily edited?) is rife with peril.

Trusted Opensolaris +ODF (was Re:Disallow MS Word) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178545)

There are certainly better solutions to this problem in the open source world. Sun isn't very good at explaining what "trusted JDS" is, but this screenshot [sun.com] on an engineer's blog gives you a clue that it might help in cases such as this. In the screenshot, someone tries to cut and paste text from a high security classification document into a lower security classification and an error popup warns that this isn't posisbl. In this particular instance you'd disallow this document's author from ever cutting and pasting anything!

Track Changes... (3, Interesting)

hejog (816106) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177849)

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...

Re:Track Changes... (1)

svendsen (1029716) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178347)

it is off by default (on a clean install). Companies may have turned it on as a corporate setting though.

Can we charge MS under the PATRIOT Act yet??? (4, Funny)

parvenu74 (310712) | more than 7 years ago | (#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:Can we charge MS under the PATRIOT Act yet??? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19177929)

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 and then use general wording of the Patriot Act to jail them.

Haven't you heard? It's the new way. Senator McCarthy was a pioneer & George Bush is the new prophet to lead us.

Re:Can we charge MS under the PATRIOT Act yet??? (4, Funny)

lilomar (1072448) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178191)

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.

Re:Can we charge MS under the PATRIOT Act yet??? (1)

n0dna (939092) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178665)

Wouldn't it make more sense to Court Martial the dipshit behind the memos? How is his inability to work editing and change tracking the fault of MS? I've never had changes bite me in the ass, instead I learned to use the feature correctly. The truly incompetent can even keep a PUBLIC version of the file maintained without change tracking. By all means flame-on, as this is clearly a case where F/OSS is a better solution. *rolls eyes*

History repeating (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:History repeating (1)

spamking (967666) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178305)

Remember when that Cat Schwartz girl from TV posted a cropped photo that accidentally had her boobs in the embedded Photoshop thumbnail?

Link?

Seriously, this is a pretty common issue in my office (I may or may not work for Uncle Sam). I think most folks probably have "track changes" set to "on" by default and those of us who don't are greeted with all of the comments and track changes dialogue when we open up the attached MSWord file.

The potential is there to find out some pretty funny stuff about your coworkers when this happens.

Re:History repeating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178515)

Oh, a few years ago a police officer here in Australia got in trouble when he sent a Word document around to schools in with cropped kiddie porn photos in order to try and identify the victims. The news report intimated that the receivers were able to see the entire photos. I suspect the author simply used the Word photo cropping tool, which of course can be easily undone.

A Good Book About the CPA (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177867)

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.

Re:A Good Book About the CPA (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19177965)

Not surprising.

The republican party weekly newsletter has been renamed Pravda.

Wrong tool for the job, (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178053)

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.

The "U.S".? (0, Troll)

sycodon (149926) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177873)

So a handful of people don't know about or how to use the track changes features in Word and that means the "U.S." is incompetent?

Then, they are discussion the reasons for success and they means are incompetent?

I suspect if the original poster held him/herself to the same standards they would hold everyone else, they would probably just kill themselevs for being incompetent.

Re:The "U.S".? (1)

slowhand (191637) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178015)

Ditto for me! If I had mod points I'd mod down the original for Bozo headline, not meaning to disparage Bozo.
A little vague handwaving can often save hours of tedious explanation.

Re:The "U.S".? (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178123)

I actually have mod points, but ddn't notice in my rush to post. At least I didn't say "First!"

Re:The "U.S".? (2, Interesting)

Toon Moene (883988) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178187)

> So a handful of people don't know about or how to use the track changes features in Word and that
> means the "U.S." is incompetent?

No, it just means that *when people care* (i.e., on Wall Street) they know about this feature.

If you're just a drone in the streets of Baghdad - well, who cares ...

yet another reason for published formats (4, Insightful)

mikey_boy (125590) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:yet another reason for published formats (5, Informative)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178059)

The last time they tried PDF we just selected the text UNDER the black rectangles, remember?

Re:yet another reason for published formats (3, Informative)

gosand (234100) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178107)

Convert to PDF, and job done.


A prime opportunity to point out that OpenOffice.org can write directly to PDF while MS Word cannot, and you blow it! For shame.

Re:yet another reason for published formats (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178211)

Funny, my version of Word has a "Save as PDF", that was provided by MS no less. OH! You meant the -previous- versions. Oupsies.

Re:yet another reason for published formats (1)

goatpunch (668594) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178577)

Had they not heard of PDF?!


PDF isn't idiot proof either. I saw some sensitive letters published online as PDFs, with the names blacked out. Only problem was the 'blacking out' was simply black rectangles drawn on a different layer from the background image- anyone with Adobe Acrobat could extract the image underneath and read all the names.

yay for OO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19177897)

Is it THAT hard to distill in a PDF? I mean, OO has it from the get go. What abou-....never mind.

always always convert to text then polish (3, Interesting)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177907)

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"

Re:always always convert to text then polish (1)

mph (7675) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178323)

But most Americans can't read Polish. Or is that the point?

Re:always always convert to text then polish (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178499)

Why would you convert to polish? There are people who could translate it, you know. Security by obscurity.

Someone didn't follow policy (2, Interesting)

Tridus (79566) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177913)

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 (5, Informative)

felixdzerzhinsky (809662) | more than 7 years ago | (#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

Looks like some competent analysis there. (2, Insightful)

wiredog (43288) | more than 7 years ago | (#19177939)

In this excerpt [salon.com] the last bit (Item 2, at the bottom of the page) looks like a pretty good analysis.

Re:Looks like some competent analysis there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178159)

In this excerpt the last bit (Item 2, at the bottom of the page) looks like a pretty good analysis.
Salon cannot set a cookie on your browser

Yep. 100% correct.

Silly Bureaucrats (4, Funny)

killmenow (184444) | more than 7 years ago | (#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!

Re:Silly Bureaucrats (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178029)

Do you by chance work for the Justice Department?

Summary (4, Funny)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Summary of the summary (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178297)

9/11 scared me shitless and I'll believe anything (The Bush administration/DOD/GOP/Rush Limbaugh) says that reinforces my beliefs without questioning anything.

Re:Summary (4, Informative)

JoeZeppy (715167) | more than 7 years ago | (#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?

My Comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178023)

[remove by GWB] Without the propaganda spin, the majority of the US population would NOT want our tropps to be there at all. Even with massive amounts or mis information, it is still very unpopular. Imagine if we all knew the entire truth? [end remove]

I am in full support of [remove by GWB] pulling out of [end remove] [addition by GWB]our governments decision to stay in[end addition] Iraq.

good idea, publish intelligence docs in a war. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178065)

You know, as a general rule the publishing of sensitive documents during a shooting war is a bad idea. Guys get killed over this kind of thing. You know, like the source of the intel is probably a human being who's putting his/her very own personal ass on the line to help the US forces, and he/she could, like, DIE because of this?

Instead of trumpeting this to the world and waving it like a bloody shirt, maybe the author could have sent a quiet note to the source of the document? Help out instead of being an asshole?

Just a thought eh?

Move along. Nothing to see here. Move along. (4, Funny)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178249)

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.)

Re:Move along. Nothing to see here. Move along. (1)

Guuge (719028) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178597)

Exactly! Someone once told me that the US is occupying Iraq, but that's clearly ridiculous. Imagine the *entire* US occupying Iraq! Insane! We wouldn't fit!

The deleted text (5, Informative)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 7 years ago | (#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 satisfaction that project money is flowing in greater quantities and believe this has made a difference in the public perception toward the occupation. While the amounts of money are still modest, especially in Fallujah, there are a number of visible projects ongoing that have employed some people and given the appearance that help is on the way.

Engagement: We'll take some credit here. We have been engaging widely with all the various groups of losers in the new Iraq - intelligence officers, ex-Ba'athists, ex-Army. While many are tiring of the refrain that if you stay with us things will get better, for some they actually have improved and that may have given hope to entire groups. The Veteran's Affairs office, for example, has created some very positive interaction with the ex-military, and it has helped some of the senior leaders to go on to employment. The simple fact that we are engaging with these people sends a positive signal, even though many others are still waiting for something that will help them.

2. We are still in the knock on wood mode here, as there is no telling what the future holds. The bizarre reaction to the Saddam capture and the increasing lawlessness in many cities in the west certainly gives us pause. There is also the sense among many Sunnis that we are clearly a temporary presence and other Iraqis are the real enemy so in the long term it might be better to begin to gear up and position themselves for the fight to come. This would not in the end make the reduction in attacks a good news story. In short there is plenty of fight left in the Sunnis here and plenty of weapons to carry on that fight. But the sharp and now continuing drop in attacks does give the coalition a much needed respite whose continuation will be critical to successfully carrying out the very challenging political calendar before us. Reinforcing this trend with resources and added attention will be crucial to ultimate success. • As of March 4, the CPA Administrator had appointed Inspectors General in 13 Ministries (half the total), and another 5 Ministries had submitted nominations. All Ministries (with the exception of Defense) are expected to have Inspectors General appointed by the end of March. CPA is holding an initial training seminar for those now appointed on March 8.

Re:The deleted text (1)

Nuffsaid (855987) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178639)

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.
No! This can't be! Keep for yourself your wild hypotesis! Delete it from the document!

Re:The deleted text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178643)

"some of the leaders and financiers of the resistance"

This document is about a different Iraq.
There are only insurgents, not resistance in the one I normally read about.

I thought this was an Slashdot article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178281)

But it turned out to be another example of Zonk's attention whoring...

Secrets? (4, Interesting)

cybermage (112274) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178285)

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:Secrets? (2, Insightful)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178563)

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.

It happened because they did not use emacs or vi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178353)

For the good of the people the US Government should ban Word and other Windows software and switch to UNIX text editors.

One has to wonder... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19178407)

...how previous wars would have fared had they been subjected to the microscopic scrutiny of today...

Re:One has to wonder... (1, Flamebait)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178613)

Maybe our current administration should have thought of that before they went gung-ho into Iraq.

Oh... (1)

Evil Cretin (1090953) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178435)

When I read the title I thought they'd written everything in Comic Sans MS.

Don't blame Microsoft... (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#19178501)

...the risk [google.com] * of finding embarrassing, hidden information by using Word's "track changes" feature wasn't widely known until 2000.

They've only had seven years to address it.

----
*Search on string "nego" for Avi Rubin's posting, "The scary MSWord residue feature"
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