By releasing a report documenting its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — and any links between that interference and the campaign of President Trump — the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee planted a flag in defense of the president. It didn’t take Trump long to leverage it, either; in short order Trump tweeted that the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III “MUST END.” Democrats on the House committee, though, argue that the report (which they didn’t endorse) is “a systematic effort to muddy the waters” of what happened.
This article isn’t about that. This article is about how the report redacts the names of people involved in the investigation even when the person being mentioned is immediately obvious.
For example, consider this section of the report.
The (U) indicates that the information is unclassified, but there are still redactions — in this case, ones that are easy to crack.
Trump’s former head of security is Keith Schiller. This isn’t a secret; he served in that position starting in 2004. After Schiller testified before the House committee, his comments about having rejected the overture with the prostitutes were widely reported. That doesn’t mean his testimony isn’t classified — but even if those comments hadn’t been reported, it’s obvious that Schiller’s the subject of this section. He was the head of security during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that’s being discussed!
Oh, also, there’s that footnote on “we don’t do that.”
I think I’ve cracked the mystery on this one.
Shortly after the Schiller section, this redaction appears.
That businessman is Felix Sater. Again, there are plenty of references in short order to news reports that make it clear it’s Sater, like when Sater emailed Cohen to brag that “our boy can become president,” referring to Trump. But, again, just from the context above it’s obvious who’s being talked about: Sater was a principal at Bayrock Group who had a long-standing relationship with Trump.
At one point, the report explicitly mentions Carter Page as an adviser to the Trump campaign.
But then, a bit later, there’s this.
That’s Carter Page! You already talked about him! And, not only that, but the “executive summary” excerpt quoted in the final report was part of the testimony Page offered to the committee and which has already been released publicly. Notice, too, that the length of Page’s and Sater’s names make them pretty easy to pick out. In the redactions above, it’s pretty clear that George Papadopoulos isn’t the person being mentioned.
Amazingly, censoring Page’s name when attributing a public quote to him isn’t the weirdest redaction in the report. That honor belongs to these redactions, concerning the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower.
It has been reported for a while who attended the meeting, but the report redacts the names of the non-campaign attendees, except for the Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Fine.
But on the very next page the names of the people who joined Veselnitskaya are unredacted.
Sure, you’re thinking, but we still don’t know their first names. Except we do. Because on the page before the one in which the names are redacted, there’s this giant graphic.
If you were still wondering who served as the translator in that redacted paragraph, The Washington Post can report that it was Anatoli Samochornov.
It’s not clear what’s going on here. One guess is that different parts of the report were given to different people to redact, leading to the differences. Redacting a name on one page and leaving it clear on the next, though, is pretty remarkable.
We will note, though, that at no point are there any mentions of someone referred to only as President █████. Even for this report, that redaction might have been too obvious.