The May 13th issue of TIME magazine again mentioned the word redact. Just a few months ago, I didn’t even know the word. We used to just say black out. Redaction or redact are lawyer-words that have become familiar to everyone following the Robert Mueller report on Donald Trump and Russia.
Redaction is a form of editing in which texts are redacted (meaning combined) to form a more coherent work. But that’s not how it was used in the long-awaited Mueller report.
The Mueller report was released to the public full of the second meaning of redact. The second meaning is when something is removed from the content of a document, usually with black rectangles so that it is obvious that it has been removed. This is called a redaction and the people who do it are called redactors. They are a kind of editors.
And, handily, it can function as an adjective, redacted, just like the past participle of the verb, and it simply means “edited in order to obscure or remove information.”
A normal usage of redact or redaction or redacted would refer to something confidential, such as a list of the names of people who attend an Alcohol Anonymous meeting, or the names of witnesses in a murder trial, or, in the past, the names of religious professionals accused of child sexual abuse. However, we did not expect the Mueller report to come to us in redacted form.
The American public is used to redactions, even if many of them didn’t know the word. For example, during WWI, the Germans had a secret method for opening sealed letters without detection, as well as a formula for secret ink. U.S. intelligence got hold of that information way back in the early 1900s, kept it redacted and only released it to the public in 2011.
Another big example of redaction was the public remarks made by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev about the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. What he really said was redacted until 2014.
And even Marilyn Monroe, who died at age 36 in 1962, was redacted by the FBI until 2012, fifty years after her death. There were a lot of conspiracy theories about her death, especially since she was said to have had Communist sympathies, and to have had an affair with both Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and president John F. Kennedy.
Here is a photo of the 2019 Robert Mueller report. You can see that the most interesting parts appear to have been redacted. The report was 448 pages long and nearly 40% of the pages in the document contain at least one redaction, totally nearly 1,000 in all. The redactions fall into four categories:
1) Harm to ongoing matters (that might include just about everything)
2) Grand jury (information that might be used in ongoing legal matters)
3) Investigative techniques (anything that could let us know how the FBI conducts its investigations)
4) Personal privacy (referring to the president of the United States)
The special Mueller report took 23 months to compile, used 500 search warrants, 2,300 subpoenas and countless indictments. Its purpose was to clear up the accusations of Russia’s 2016 election interference. It is hard for anyone to make sense out of the unredacted parts. CNN compared the redacted report to talking to someone on their cell phone and then, just as they get to the best part, losing that person as they drive through a tunnel.
If you have a law office or are president of some country, it is advisable to invest in redaction software. Experts say that it is impossible to live in the digital age without this software.
Tattoos have been around for more than 5,000 years. Egyptians, for example, used tattoos to differentiate between peasants and slaves, a kind of social branding. But ink art, which is what some fans like to call tattooing, has really exploded in the past 25 years. But not all of us have succumbed to this fad. And many of us who don’t have a tattoo have a favorite mug. Having a tattoo or becoming attached to a mug are not dissimilar. According to research, 60% of Americans say they have an emotional attachment to a favorite mug. And about 40% said their special mug was irreplaceable, and about 1/3 of those said they would be devastated if it broke. Personally, I think that most of these people don’t have tattoos. Mugs and tattoos are both an extension of our personalities, and both express the way we would like the world to perceive us. That is not to mention, of course, that those of us who have tattoos or mugs are often irrationally attached to them.