The Memory Hole
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Nov 13 06:59:12 MST 2003
Peeking Behind the Curtain of Secrecy
UNCENSORED - Russ Kick founded The Memory Hole to bring suppressed or
ignored documents to light.
By TOM McNICHOL
NY Times, November 13, 2003
IN George Orwell's "1984," documents deemed embarrassing to the State
were tossed down a memory hole, a disposal chute in the Ministry of
Truth that led to enormous furnaces. Taking a cue from the novel, Russ
Kick, a journalist and author, established www.thememoryhole.org, a Web
site dedicated to saving official documents from oblivion and posting
From his home in Tucson, Mr. Kick runs his own Ministry of Truth,
chasing down government reports, Congressional testimony, court
proceedings, corporate memos and media images that have been either
suppressed or ignored.
"I'm certainly not a journalist in the normal sense of the word," said
Mr. Kick, who is 34. "I'm more of an information archaeologist. I'm
trying to get the stuff that's either been purposely buried or just
covered over by time."
One of Mr. Kick's recent digs involved an internal report from June 2002
that harshly criticized the Justice Department's efforts toward
diversity in employee hiring, promotion and retention. A version of the
report was posted at the department's Web site last month with about
half of the material in the 186-page study blacked out.
But Mr. Kick discovered that the deletions were easy to restore
electronically. Opening the document in Adobe Acrobat, a reader and
editor for Portable Document Format, or PDF, Mr. Kick used the
software's "Touch Up Object" tool to select the black bars covering the
text. He then hit the delete button. The black bars disappeared, leaving
just the text.
"It was that simple," Mr. Kick said. "I was kind of surprised, but we
are talking about a government bureaucracy, so I wasn't that surprised."
The uncensored report, posted at The Memory Hole on Oct. 21, has been
downloaded more than 340,000 times.
Mr. Kick is not alone on the online paper trail; thesmokinggun.com has
been posting quirky celebrity and court documents since April 1997 and
is now owned by Court TV. Specialty sites like cryptome.org focus on
documents related to privacy, cryptology and freedom of expression.
Mr. Kick began his site in July 2002 and finances it himself. His chief
source of income is writing and editing books; he recently published his
seventh title, "50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know" (The
Disinformation Company, 2003). His books are full of things "they" don't
want you to know, although it is not always clear who "they" are or
whether the statements are true. (Among the 50 things you are not
supposed to know: the C.I.A. commits over 100,000 serious crimes per
year; blood relatives of Hitler are living in the United States; an
atomic bomb was dropped on North Carolina.)
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