Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Wed Dec 22 19:42:19 UTC 2004

On Wed, 22 Dec 2004 14:30:00 -0500, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU> wrote:

>The earliest relevant cite on the Nexis database suggests that US
>government officials began using "redacted" as a synonym for "censored" in
>the '70s:
>   Washington Post, Dec 19, 1978, A2
>   Prosecutors in the FBI break-ins case mistakenly circulated to
>   defense lawyers highly classified material that is only supposed
>   to be seen or discussed in a spy-proof vault.
>   Attorneys for three former top FBI officials charged in the case
>   made the disclosure yesterday in a lively pretrial hearing where
>   they protested Justice Department attempts to get the documents
>   back for censoring as part of a proposal to place strict limits
>   on collecting new information.
>   [...]
>   The lawyers voiced special opposition yesterday to a government
>   request that they return their clients' grand jury testimony to
>   be "redacted" - censored - of material containing "sensitive
>   compartmented information (SCI)."

A bit more from this case, from an AP wire story that appeared in the New
York Times:

   New York Times, Dec 19, 1978, p. A12
   Alan I. Baron, who represents the former acting FBI director,
   L. Patrick Gray 3d, said, "We are being denied the right to
   conduct a defense. The Government wants an unlimited right to
   redact information as to intelligence techniques, and that's
   what this case is all about."
   The term "redact" has been adopted by the Government and in
   this context means censorship of classified material.
   Barnett D. Skolnik, a Justice Department lawyer, said, "We are
   redacting in good faith."

Seems clear that the lawyers representing the Government needed a
euphemism for "censor" in this case -- it would be difficult for them to
say, "We are *censoring* in good faith."

(Apropos of the "Weatherman" thread... the FBI officials were on trial for
conducting illegal surveillance of the Weather Underground.)

--Ben Zimmer

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