Here's the Time the EPA Used Duct Tape to Redact a FOIA Request

It really can fix anything.


I've seen a lot of weird Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) redactions. I've seen redacted complaints about Amtrak snack cars and the CIA cafeteria. I've seen pictures of FBI retirement parties where all the faces were replaced by blank squares, resulting in an oddly artistic tableau.

But duct tape is a new one.

Chris Horner, a longtime FOIA requester and litigator, tweeted out pictures today of a set of emails he received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in 2015.

Usually federal agencies redact information using document production software, Adobe Acrobat, or in less high-tech cases, a Sharpie. This time, the EPA decided to get a little…creative:

Chris Horner via FOIA

It's not the worst FOIA redaction or most nonsensical document release by a longshot, though.

There was the time a British government agency accidentally highlighted paragraphs instead of redacting them. Or when the State Department released a set of documents to a requester in what appeared to be 4-pt font, so tiny that it was barely readable.

Let's not forget the time the CIA tried to convince a FOIA requester and a federal judge that the only way it could release a huge tranche of files in electronic format was to print out the files and then manually rescan them—a solution the unimpressed judge called "Rube Goldbergian."

But I must award the EPA the Red Green Show duct tape seal of approval for this bold new frontier in redaction technology.