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red tape

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n. ~ Bureaucratic forms and processes that have become an end in themselves and an obstacle to accomplishing some objective.

Notes: 

The term is derived from red linen tape (sometimes called red rope) used to bind documents.

Citations:
(D Levy 2001, p. 61) Who among us hasn't felt trapped in a tangle of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape, unable to make a move without a form?