The Limited Hangout tactic is a form of propaganda that is used to reduce backlash against an immoral or would-be illegal act (usually considered a cover-up), by making it seem like the perpetrators have come clean about their role, while still keeping important details hidden. By releasing information that was previously secret or not yet acknowledged, backlash is reduced because some people will believe the cover-up has been fully exposed and admitted to.
Because only some information is hung out or revealed, it is called a limited hangout. Like a pressure valve releasing steam to keep the pipes in order, the perpetrators release a limited amount of information to keep the full truth hidden and to save them from further repercussions.
The term limited hangout can apply to public relations, i.e. a business trying to keep a lid on poor worker conditions. For example they may say the head office had no idea about the worker conditions and that it was an isolated incident, when it may have been going on for some time with the full knowledge of the head office.
It is more commonly applied to politics or corruption within the intelligence community, who might be trying to save face from a blunder, or covering up something more sinister.
Some might argue that the investigation in to the July 7, London Bombings was a limited hangout in order to cover up links between the intelligence agencies and the terrorists, and the failure to prevent the attacks despite having records on some of the alleged bombers and a string of data suggesting bombings on the underground were highly likely.
Several official reports and a belated coroners inquest have been undertaken, each revealing slightly more information about the role of MI5. However despite credible information in the public domain that terrorists connected to the alleged bombers were assets (working with and/or being monitored by the intelligence agencies), the official story is that the intelligence agencies cannot be blamed.
In this case the official reports and inquest are the medium for the limited hangout, whereby some information was released, but not to the point of incrimination.
Other examples of limited hangout include the Pope covering up child abuse, and Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.
On abuse by the Catholic church Mary McGrory wrote the article: From Rome, A ‘Limited Hangout’:
The “modified, limited hangout” route made famous in Watergate seems to be operative in Rome. The pope, in a weak and halting voice, told the assembled red hats things they already knew, such as that pedophilia is not only a crime but also “an appalling sin in the eyes of God.” He offered them ambiguous advice as to the remedy, counseling “zero tolerance” and at the same time an unshaken belief in redemption. Law’s presence at the table implied an approval of the methods that so outraged Boston Catholics that their cardinal can go nowhere without being picketed.
A limited hangout may not involve everybody associated with the act directly. The media for example may report on an issue in a certain way because that’s the only information they’ve been fed. They are not directly in on the propaganda, they are tools of it.
This is closely related to compartmentalization, a pyramidal system by which those lower down the pyramid are not privy to the agenda at the top.