Post-9/11 secrecy produces some undesirable results

Here's an interesting article that I tripped across this morning. As is always the case with these sortes of things, it takes great pleasure in pointing out the silliness of certain "security" practices, so it almost misses the important points.

There are two real problems with this strategy of classifying and declassifying stuff all over the place:

  1. the bureaucratic overhead; and
  2. the fact that if stuff is all blacked out, it's impossible to correlate the information. All we can hope on this last point is that the people who need to see all the information, can see it.
The reasoning behind classification (preventing the bad (or worse the stupid) people getting at information) is a valid approach. It just worked better in the past because information sharing was much harder. Now days, once something gets out, it's almost impossible to get back - it's amazing what a good Google search will turn up. I'm still open to it - there are some things that probably should be unavailable, but real security shouldn't rely on it.

Perhaps the most important point in the artcle is the throw away line at the end:

Knowledge empowers. An informed public is one of national security's
greatest strengths.

I tend to agree with this. The second sentence fits well with Gibson's 2nd law (the truth will set you free). I'm a knowledge management fan so I'm all for empowerment - however, there's a lot more to this statement that just telling people things.

The important part is the knowledge bit - i.e. information with understanding. So not enough to just declassify and release information - the proper "so what?" analysis needs to be done. Obviously there will be spin put on whatever analysis is done, whether intended or not, so again it comes down to people thinking. However, without the correct information up front (the truth) it's all a bit pointless.


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