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red tape (n.)

"official routine or formula," especially "excessive bureaucratic rigmarole," 1736, in reference to the red tape formerly used in Great Britain (and the American colonies) for binding up legal and other official documents, which is mentioned from 1690s.

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Definitions of red tape from WordNet

red tape (n.)
needlessly time-consuming procedure;
Synonyms: bureaucratic procedure
From wordnet.princeton.edu