11 March 2013
Secrets Don't Matter
Legendary cryptography scholar David Kahn, of Codebreakers fame, refused
to sign a secrecy agreement to access NSA archives as other scholars readily
accepted to be deputized to Sheriff NSA. He did not want to be compromised
by access privilege and its Faustian restriction on what he could publish,
only preen about not revealing.
Instead, Kahn sat a desk just outside the archive and asked for documents,
which were delivered to him, studied and returned. He asked for what he wanted
to frame the missing pieces, then asked for the missing pieces, then used
those to fill-in the framework along with his vastly greater open research
(his archives later donated to NSA -- classification unknown).
What Kahn missed by staying outside is still secret, or maybe not, its remaining
secret may be essential to conceal its importance as vapor. As the Director
of National Intelligence declared: "we classify our gathering of open source
information to prevent the enemy from knowing what we classify." That is,
Paraphrasing Bruce Schneier's "security theater" to ridicule security warnings,
unsupported protection claims, public relations snake oil squirts for funding
and clownish pretense, "secrecy theater" will do for secrets.
The most important information is not secret, it is hidden in plain sight,
awaiting discovery by digging, assaying, compilation, polishing, shared freely.
Massive, widespread siphoning by scholars, businesses, governments, organizations
and individials is accruing mineable, analyzable and distributable collections
for non-profit and profit far outdistancing closed and secret archives.
Algorithms can detect missing data by absence, style, format, date, profile,
linkage, bars to linkage -- all the skills and techniques anciently deployed
in persistent scholarship, research, theft, barter and ingenuity that
may be in secret collections which themselves were and are being fed by open,
commercial, confidential, stolen, fraudlent, forged and disinformative
Both open and secret are at bottom distinguishable only by branding and mutually
beneficial accusation and braggardy.
Open information is not what it appears to be any more than secrets. Whatever
applies to secrets applies to open information, among the two intermixed
is where useful discovery awaits to enhance democracy and defeat autocracy.
Commentary, critique and advocacy of the open and the secret are not to be
taken seriously, comical as anywhere anytime openly secret conclave, yes.
On to why secrets don't matter, beating up on secretkeepers an open idlers'
sport matched by the other team.
Secrets kept secret are sterile, like mules.
Secrets are dangerous like incest.
Increase of secrets for national security has weakened free nations, strengthened
their opposition, bred paranoia and suspicion.
Increase of secretkeepers has reduced their participation in democracy, fostered
bias, rewarded ignorance, bred isolation and paranoia.
Deputizing media to manage release of secrets has undermined trust in government
and the media.
Classification of secrets has evolved into misclassification,
over-classification, secrecy as an end in itself, a business and career malady.
Classification creep up and down has dissolved effectiveness, stupefied
secretkeepers and corrupted distributors.
Top secret/SCI is now trivial, above top secret is inscrutible, anonymous,
unnamable, bewildering, incomprehensible, the top of the top ever transforming
TS/Codeword is bogus; codewords are delusional, transitory, evanescent, deceptive
to users, stings, ploys, ruses, flim-flam, one-time use disposables.
Top Secret clearances mute thousands for life pointlessly except for ex-high
Secret classification inflates insignificance; secret clearances are so degraded
and profuse they are beyond utility, effectiveness and accountability.
Unclassified is chaotic, obfuscation, smoke-blowing but likely contains
overlooked nuggets, FOUO is blather, SBU is waffle, SSI is joke, LES is pitiful.
Redactions are ridiculous paint by numbers, aided by robotics: sample of
US FOIA monkey-art:
Secrets are now useless, don't matter, don't do what the secretkeepers and
public are told they do.
Secrets and secrecy are like astrology, alchemy, in need of marginalization,
best fodder for comics.
Secretkeepers need to come in from the cold, rejoin society, the conversation,
the debate, the argument, stop acting bizarre, lying to families and friends,
pay their full dues, uncloaked.
What replaces secrets and secrecy? Good question and deserves much discussion,
How to get there?
Put to pasture those who cannot speak and behave openly.
Free young and mid-career bound-minds from the secrecy rogue state.
Devalue, demonopolize, demarketize, stigmatize secrets.
Honor those who disclose secrets, empty the vaults.
Redirect careers of trackers of secrets disclosures.
Abandon heirarchical classification of information of all kinds everywhere.
Demolish secret archives.
Forbid redaction, eradicate the pestilence.
Build more openly available information, more free media, more public libraries,
more free-wheeling fora, more ways to challenge and beat authoritatives of
all stripes and business models.
Laugh kindly at "if you knew what I know," "source not authorized to speak
on the record," "only this can be revealed to the public," "officials say
on background," and above all, "national security."
Take out a dollar, muse "In God We Trust" facading repositories of secret
Imagine what it would be like to fear not the demand for obedience backed
by mega-tonnage of highly classified undemocratic persuasion.