Early one Sunday morning in the spring of 1996, editors at the Washington Times decided that something in their paper was so terrible it had to be fixed, and that the edition already printed had to be destroyed. Nobody at the Times will say what caused such a stir. And don't go looking for a paper trail -- the Times shredded all 70,000 copies.
Shredding companies -- like professional escort services -- are among Washington's most profitable cottage industries, with more than 18 listings in the local Yellow Pages. The Rolls Royce of shredders is the Whitaker Bros. 007S, which slices classified documents into particles 3/32 of an inch wide. "It's a lot smaller than snowflakes," says Whitaker salesman George Shugars. And the 007 line is in high demand: Whitaker Bros. is one of the leading providers of shredders to government agencies. The White House, for example, has its own 007.