The Canadian Caper & The Birth Of The Cross-Cut Shredder

Wednesday, December 23, 2015 3:35 am, Posted by Absolute Destruction

You might be surprised to learn that the Iranian hostage crisis and the Iran-Contra affair has anything to do with the way you shred, but the scandals were the impetus for the rise in cross-cut shredders, which forever changed the way companies and individuals destroy confidential material.

If you’re a history buff or simply a fan of the movie Argo then you know that the Iranian hostage crisis involved six American diplomats who evaded capture by posing as Canadians who were in the country to scout filming locations for a sci-fi feature film. While Argo explored the cinematic possibilities of what since has been dubbed the Canadian Caper, in reality the Iranian hostage crises wasn’t limited to these six Americans. Over fifty people were held hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran by a militant group. During this crisis, the group of militants who stormed the embassy was able to collect shredded documents and piece them back together again, learning important information about the American government.

It was so easy for these militants to retrieve this information from the shredded paper because before 1979 the majority of shredders used by individuals, businesses, and governments alike used a strip-cut technique. Strip-cut shredders utilize a mechanism of rotating knives to cut paper into the narrow strips typical of many at-home shredders people still use today. As it only cuts the paper once, it’s incredibly easy to piece back together.

Five years later, the Iran-Contra affair unfolded, as the United States exchanged weapons during an arms embargo to secure the release of seven Americans held hostage by Contra militants. When the arms deal was discovered, the investigation revealed that Colonel Oliver North shredded many of the Iran-Contra documents that could indict the United States President, Richard Nixon as well as many others in the affair. That he used a cross-cut model of shredder ensured that most of the documents couldn’t be retrieved.

A cross-cut shredder reduces any document that goes through its blades to small pieces, similar to confetti. Unlike strip-cut, it’s incredibly hard to piece back together. It was the success of the cross-cut in the Iran-Contra affair compared to the failure of the strip-cut five years previous that made people rethink how they can and should shred documents.

When the average residential and commercial shredder employs the strip-cut method, at-home and interoffice shredding is no longer a viable option for those worried about the retrieval of their personal information. We aren’t suggesting that anyone will be shredding government documents regarding national security, but we do suggest we learn a lesson from the past. If the documents put through a strip-cut shredder are easily put back together, then you shouldn’t trust it to destroy your files.

Only electronic data and document disposal services can completely destroy files and devices. As our mobile shredding trucks abide by the latest in NAID () policies, we can assure you that our process will eliminate any chance of retrieval. Our “Guarantee of Destruction” is a secure pledge that not a single strip of paper or computer chip can be found amongst the waste, as our mobile shredding trucks employ a shredding process that’s far more advanced than strip-cut and cross-cut machines.

In the short thirty years that have passed since the hostage crises and ensuing Iran-Contra affair, shredding technology has seen huge advances. Why would you continue to use a method that was proven to be ineffective in the 70s? Learn from the mistakes of history and get in touch with us. We use the most advanced shredding processes to completely and utterly destroy your documents.

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