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Last Updated: Monday, 2 May 2005, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Readers 'declassify' US document
US military report into the killing of Nicola Calipari
Someone found a simple cut-and-paste job could restore the text
When news started circulating in Italy that a heavily censored Pentagon report into the death of secret agent Nicola Calipari had been decrypted, many thought it must be the work of some top-notch hacker.

In fact, it turned out that the classified document, containing top-secret details - such as the name of the soldier who fired the deadly rounds of ammunition - could be made readable with two simple clicks of your computer mouse.

A few hours after the Pentagon published the report on its website, a few Italian readers found they could make the blacked-out paragraphs reappear by cutting and pasting them from the site into a Word document.

Salvatore Schifani, a 30-year-old IT worker, spotted the document at about 0300 local time (0100 GMT) on Saturday night.

He said he had just come home from a night out and wanted to check the latest news before going to sleep.

"I played around on my computer by highlighting the text, I found out the words were still there under the blacked-out bits," he told web-based Repubblica radio.

"It really surprised me, because the best way of not making this information available would have been not to write it down in the first place, rather than putting it there and then trying to conceal it in such a silly way," he added.

A human mistake while processing the text using a common programme known as Acrobat has presumably led to this embarrassing gaffe.

A simple command would have been enough to turn the blacked-out bits into a permanent feature of the document, preventing anybody from reading the classified portions.

On Monday afternoon, the report could no longer be found on the Pentagon website.

Officials at the US Department of Defence, presumably flooded by press inquiries, did not return calls on the issue, the Associated Press news agency reported.

But Mr Schifani who was pretty relaxed about his discovery.

"I couldn't even be bothered to tell lots of people about it - I sent just a few emails to a couple of newsgroups. I wasn't after fame," he modestly told the radio.

"This whole thing makes me smile - but it also makes me wonder whether it might have been a voluntary mistake."

How the censored parts of the report were made public

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