gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for June 10th, 2011

Reassembling shredded documents

June 10, 2011 @ 08:13 By: gordon Category: General

When the Americans abandoned their embassy in Iran in 1979, they shredded thousands of classified documents with strip-cut paper shredders and left the shreddings behind in garbage bags. The assumption was that the information was secure because it would take half a million people 5 years to put it back together and that it was highly unlikely that anyone would be able to do that.

shredded document from IranSo Iran rounded up a whole bunch of carpet weavers (people used to dealing with tangles!), gave them each a roll of sticky tape and a bunch of shredded material. A few years later and they had reassembled most of the classified documents.

And then Iran published them in a series of books called Documents from the U.S. Espionage Den. So much for the US’ secrets.

Since then, more secure shredders have been developed that turn paper into very thin, short strips that mean it’s much harder to put things back together. To reduce the likelihood of someone putting the pieces back together the shreddings can be mixed up. I read somewhere that the CIA learned from what took place in Iran and turns the shreddings into pulp them before burning the pulp.

Fast forward to yesterday: