Unearthing Civil Rights Cold Cases

When people think of redaction they often think of long-sealed government documents.  When they’re finally released to the public, they come covered in black marker, removing sensitive pieces of information to either hide (in the eyes of some) information, or to protect things like government secrets or personal information.

A bill recently introduced by Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018, aims to give the public access to documents related to civil rights cold cases, but without redaction.  The bill has also been championed by Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and California Democrat Kamala Harris.

According to a press release, the two major things this bill will do will be to:

  • Require the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish a collection of cold case records about unsolved criminal civil rights cases that government offices must publicly disclose in the collection without redaction or withholding.
  • Establish a Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board as an independent agency of impartial private citizens to facilitate the review, transmission to NARA, and public disclosure of government records related to such cases.

The key in this bill is that, while many records can be accessed thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, congressional and executive branch records are not subject to public disclosure under the law.

The lawmakers introducing the bill believe that it would be a win for transparency, which could also help in solving some of these cases that are almost 50 years old.

Given the nature of our work here at Extract, the thought of an unredacted public document seems crazy!  That’s not because we want to keep the public from seeing important information that they have a right to see, but we always want to protect important pieces of personal information like social security numbers and birthdates.  That’s why we developed a software that can automatically identify PII for important documents including land and court records.  At Extract, we support transparency while still ensuring citizens’ private information stays private.

If you’d like to learn more about our automated redaction solution, please reach out today and we’d be happy to set up a call, demo, or whatever works for you.


Chris is a Marketing Manager at Extract with experience in product development, data analysis, and both traditional and digital marketing.  Chris received his bachelor's degree in English from Bucknell University and has an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.  A passionate marketer, Chris strives to make complex ideas more accessible to those around him in a compelling way.