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Secrets leak as software confounds the censors

NEW YORK -- Just a few clicks were enough to reveal names, training procedures, and other secrets the US military thought it had blacked out.

The leak resulted from a type of mistake that is becoming increasingly common as government agencies and corporations scrap paper for online distribution.

The US military command in Baghdad produced the report in Adobe Systems Inc.'s popular Portable Document Format and posted it Saturday. Its investigation cleared US soldiers of wrongdoing in the shooting of an Italian agent. The blacked-out portions included names of soldiers at Iraqi checkpoints, checkpoint procedures, and general security information.

John Landwehr, Adobe's director of security, examined the document and suggested censors ''simply put black rectangles over the text and did not delete any of the text itself from the documents. They were trying to do redaction with something not designed to do redaction." By simply opening the document, hitting the ''select text" button, copying and then pasting all the text into any word processor, readers could see what was buried beneath.

The military admits it goofed.

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