About The Authorship Of The Infamous "Greek Reforms" Memo

Following the earlier report that the Greek reforms memo contained something very unexpected in the "Author" field of its metadata properties, namely that it wasn't the name of the Greek finance minister, but a European Commission (ECFIN) bureaucrat Declan Costello...

... there has been a flurry of outrage from all sides, all quite understandable, because if indeed it wasn't the Greeks who created the memo then it merely confirms that Greece not only has no stated sovereignty, but it isn't even permitted to draft its own memos.

What the apologists of this phenomenon claim is that the "Author" of the pdf document is not the creator of the Doc file but the person who received the Doc file and converted it to pdf. A perfectly reasonable explanation, and one that would make sense: after all Yanis Varoufakis may have simply sent to the European Commission his final word document, which was then converted to a pdf for broad distribution.

There is only one problem with this explanation: it is wrong.

The reason it is wrong is because the metadata of pdf files follows the creator of the original doc file, not the creator of the pdf file.

Quick example: say "Tyler Durden", the default creator of word files on a computer, were to draft a blank memo...


Then naturally, the doc file would show in its properties the creator was, logically, "Tyler Durden"


Let's change the default to a random user, say "European Commission Bureaucrat"


Then draft a brief memo "signed" by a Greek finance minister...


... then save it, and proceed to convert it to a pdf.


What the pdf will show, regardless if the default user "Tyler Durden", or anyone else for that matter, converts the doc file into a pdf, is that the author is the specific user who created the doc file, in this case "European Commission Bureaucrat" and not the default pdf owner/author. This is because the pdf creation metadata follow the creator of the original underlying file, not the creator of the pdf: there is no break in the chain of authoriship/ownership just because someone else took one's doc and made it into a pdf.


In other words, the generic "explanation" by those who wish to make it seem that it may well have been Varoufakis who drafted the doc file but it was simply some European Commission bureaucrat who converted it, falls apart.

To be sure, it is distinctly possible that someone hard-changed the actual "authorship" metadata after the fact, but that would make matters even worse.

Of course, it is impossible to know if the doc file was created in Brussels as a blank then sent to Vaourfakis to fill out and convert to pdf, but that would also be a very problematic explanation. There are also many other explanations which may validly ascribe ownership of some/all of the created content to the Greek FinMin, and creation of the doc file to the Troika, which we leave to readers to pursue.

Perhaps what is most amazing about this who situation, is how few so-called "journalists" were unaware of any of the above, but were quick to dismiss the entire fiasco simply by saying the ECFIN guy converted the pdf and that's why he was the "author."

In conclusion, that there is a very simple resolution to all of this: Declan Costello, who is named as the author of the "Greek" memo, should state publicly whether or not he drafted, saved and made into a pdf the doc file with the Greek reforms, or if his name appears in the metadata purely by accident. Considering the amount of consternation that this issue appears to have generated, it would certainly bring the topic to a prompt closure.

And after all, isn't the whole point of "reporting" is to get to the bottom line, especially when the implications are substantial as in this case, and not to dismiss anything, however strange it may be, as merely too strange to investigate because it "just doesn't make sense." Unless, of course, one has prior advertising arrangements with HSBC, or the European Commission, or perhaps some of its countless financial backers. In which case we, too, are perfectly happy to let this whole topic go especially if there is no public interest in it whatsoever.

Finally, for anyone who is involved in the creation, drafting, and production of mission-critical documents, whose metadata can have huge downstream consequences, the best solution is to simply read the brief manual on Redaction of Confidential Information in Electronic Documents which nobody ever does at least not before they hint save, print or send...