A heavily edited, declassified military report detailing weaknesses in British nuclear submarines has left the Ministry of Defense (MoD) red-faced, after it was revealed that the high-tech redaction used merely involved turning the background color black to match the text. The Daily Star discovered that merely copying the full text of the dossier – written in 2009 and listing what structural damage would prompt a core meltdown, other “potentially catastrophic accidents” and flaws in reactor designs – and pasting it into a fresh document would reveal the sensitive information.
The MoD had released the report after Freedom of Information demands by anti-nuclear campaigners, taking a virtual black pen to great swathes of the document so as to hide the more delicate details. However, their method of choice involved swapping the white background in the PDF document to black, but leaving the text itself in place. Even highlighting the document with a select-all command would flag up the hidden text.
In addition to the UK sub weaknesses, details of US on-board disaster policies were visible to those following the simple anti-redaction steps. “This is hugely embarrassing. Whoever is responsible should be sacked” an unnamed MoD source has said, suggesting that “the Americans will be furious their procedures have been exposed.”
The MoD has removed the original document and has replaced the report accordingly. However, the reactor details specified concern models still being installed in new British submarines, which are expected to remain in service for another two decades.