geert lovink on Thu, 3 Jul 2003 12:57:33 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Richard M. Smith: Microsoft Word bytes Tony Blair in the butt

(have a good laugh, but remember, all this also relates to you if you use
word documents... ciao, geert)

Microsoft Word bytes Tony Blair in the butt

Richard M. Smith (
June 30, 2003

Microsoft Word documents are notorious for containing private information
in file headers which people would sometimes rather not share. The British
government of Tony Blair just learned this lesson the hard way.

Back in February 2003, 10 Downing Street published a dossier on Iraq's
security and intelligence organizations. This dossier was cited by Colin
Powell in his address to the United Nations the same month. Dr. Glen
Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University, quickly
discovered that much of the material in the dossier was actually
plagiarized from a U.S. researcher on Iraq.

You can read Dr. Rangwala's original analysis of the dossier from Feb. 5,
2003 at this URL:

Blair's government made one additional mistake: they published the dossier
as a Microsoft Word file on their Web site. When I first heard from Dr.
Rangwala about the dossier, I decided to try to learn who had worked on
the document. I downloaded the Word file containing the dossier from the
10 Downing Street Web site (http://www.number- and found the
following revision log in the file:

Rev. #1: "cic22" edited file
"C:\DOCUME~1\phamill\LOCALS~1\Temp\AutoRecovery save of Iraq -
Rev. #2: "cic22" edited file
"C:\DOCUME~1\phamill\LOCALS~1\Temp\AutoRecovery save of Iraq -
Rev. #3: "cic22" edited file
"C:\DOCUME~1\phamill\LOCALS~1\Temp\AutoRecovery save of Iraq -
Rev. #4: "JPratt" edited file "C:\TEMP\Iraq - security.doc"
Rev. #5: "JPratt" edited file "A:\Iraq - security.doc" 
Rev. #6: "ablackshaw" edited file "C:\ABlackshaw\Iraq -
Rev. #7: "ablackshaw" edited file "C:\ABlackshaw\A;Iraq -
Rev. #8: "ablackshaw" edited file "A:\Iraq -security.doc" 
Rev. #9: "MKhan" edited file "C:\TEMP\Iraq -security.doc" 
Rev. #10: "MKhan" edited file "C:\WINNT\Profiles\mkhan\Desktop\Iraq.doc"

Most Word document files contain a revision log which is a listing of the
last 10 edits of a document, showing the names of the people who worked
with the document and the names of the files that the document went under.
Revision logs are hidden and cannot be viewed in Microsoft Word. However I
wrote a small utility for extracting and displaying revision logs and
other hidden information in Word .DOC files.

It is easy to spot the following four names in the revision log of the
Blair dossier:

P. Hamill J. Pratt A. Blackshaw M. Khan

In addition, the "cic22" in the first three entries of the revision log
stands for "Communications Information Centre," a unit of the British

Back in February, I passed along these 4 names to Dr. Rangwala who then
provided them to a number of reports in the UK. One reporter quickly
identified the four individuals as:

Paul Hamill - Foreign Office official John Pratt - Downing Street official
Alison Blackshaw - The personal assistant of the Prime Minister's press
secretary Murtaza Khan - Junior press officer for the Prime Minister

During the week of June 23, 2003, the British Parliament held hearings of
the Blair Dossier and other PR efforts by the UK Government leading up to
the Iraq war. Alastair Campbell of the UK Communications Information
Centre was put in the hot seat and had to explain the dossier plagiarism
and details of the revision log.

One of the interesting tidbits that came out of the hearings is that John
Pratt provided the dossier on a floppy disk to Alison Blackshaw to give to
Colin Powell for his presentation before the United Nations. The revision
log shows the document being copied from Pratt's hard drive to a floppy
disk in revisions #4 and #5.

The Word version of the dossier was recently removed from the 10 Downing
Street Web site, but I archived a copy of the Feb. 6 version here:


The Blair government learned its lesson well with regard to publishing
Microsoft Word documents. Another report on Iraq that was published in
June 2003 was only available as a PDF file. PDF files do not contain
revision logs or hidden author information. Links

Dr. Glen Rangwala's analysis of the Iraq dossier, Feb. 2003

Dr. Glen Rangwala's paper submitted to Foreign Affairs Committee of the
House of Commons, June 16, 2003

Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis, Sept. 2002

Downing St dossier plagiarised, Feb. 6, 2003

Britain Admits That Much of Its Report on Iraq Came From Magazines, Feb.
8, 2003
 894DB4 04482

Straw's letter to WMD inquiry,12956,983396,00.html

Campbell: In the line of fire

The key backroom players

WD97: How to Minimize Metadata in Microsoft Word Documents

Dr. Glen Rangwala's Web site

10 Downing Street Web site

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: