Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"CLASSIFIED" or "Fun with Madlibs"

Warning: After writing the outline to this post. I was told that Jon Stewart had made the same joke and even referenced the same passage that I am about to reference. To that all I can see is that, "Great minds think alike." But I don't need other great minds to think for me.

Recently I started reading "Fair Game" by a former CIA agent. Before the book could be published, it had to be vetted by the CIA. And the CIA chose to classify about a quarter of the material, mostly in the first chapters of the book. Now I am all for keeping sensitive material out of enemy hands, but I must say that it does add a certain amount of humor to the book. I suppose I should expect it of those kwazy CIA agents. Remember when I posted their recruitment video that they had streamed through YOUtube, and the CIA responded by yanking the video off YOUtube and sent me a warning about revealing sensitive documents*£. Well this is not quite as good, but it is still pretty good.

First of let us examine the method used to classify things. Here we can see a page of text with gray bars covering some of the words.

Here we can see a page of gray bars with some text uncovered.

Here we can see an entire page full of nothing but gray bars. Wait a minute, look up there near the top of the page. Can you see it? They left two periods unclassified. Why the heck did they do that? Isn't it easier just to gray bar everything. They must have done it for a reason, because clearly those aren't the only periods. Presumably the rest of the page is not one giantm multi-paragraph, run-on sentence. Make that giant, multi-paragraph run-on word, as I see there is a single unclassified space as well. No, so why did they declassify only those punctuation marks? Perhaps those sentences are just not important enough to conceal where they end. Or perhaps just the opposite. Maybe those are only decoy periods to further obscure the truth. Or, quite possibly, the censor just missed them. We may never know.

Another weird thing about the censoring is the content that is censored. Sometimes there seems to be a completely innocuous passage, and then right there at the end, right when you are least expecting it, BAM gray bars. Like here.
I paid and walked out of her chic Red Bank apartment. CENSORED I called Joe from the Doctor's office. "Honey, the doctor says he hears two heartbeats–—We're having twins."
I suppose what the author couldn't say was that she discovered that chic Ob/Gyn really was a mole, but that the threat was now "neutralized".

Here's another example that is even weirder.
Because the babies still didn't suck very well, we were told not to use bottles, but rather a large syringe that essentially squirted the formula into their mouths. It felt a little like feeding a baby bird. Switching between breast and syringe feeding when they took only a few ounces at a time and capturing each detail in a notebook soon took its toll. I was exhausted CENSORED. Every baby book...
What is with the baby censorings? I mean I'm all for giving a mother her privacy, but I notice the CIA kinda came in too late for that. Besides censoring like that just makes the paragraph more conspicuous.

And here is perhaps the weirdest example of all. "Could I actually do xx job on a less-than full time basis?" Now, you can tell by the size of the gray box, that the censored word is very short, probably only two letters. And from the context it's clearly "My". But then why bother with the censoring? Even now that I know the full sentence reads, "Could I actually do MY job on a less-than full time basis," I am no more enlightened in matters of national security. And if that "My" DID say loads about the state of security in this country, I would hope they would guard it better. It took all off two seconds for me to figure out what it said. We can only hope such poorly guarded secrets never make it to the ears of Bin Laden. G-d only knows what he could do with with such information. Perhaps he is building a "My" bmb as we speak. Thanks a lot CIA.

Of course all the censoring just begs to be played as the ultimate mad lib. Take that first example. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out whether the missing words are nouns, verbs, or adjectives, so just guess some at random and enjoy. The only catch is that if you randomly guess correctly, you may get a call from men in black coats next week. Hey wait. Hey what's going on. Stop you can't do this. The truth will come out. Hey! Stop it! Put me down! You can't silence me. I'll tell everyfriend I know. In alphabetical order! AUGGGGGGGH!.

*Sorry the warning email was classified. I am not allowed to share it with you.
£By the way, in an effort to avoid more ridicule, the CIA pulled down all their recruitment pages, including their great Flash game, so if you didn't catch that post earlier, than it is just too bad.