Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
h a l f b a k e r y
The Out-of-Focus Group.

idea: add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random

meta: news, help, about, links, report a problem

account: browse anonymously, or get an account and write.



Please log in.
Before you can vote, you need to register. Please log in or create an account.

Department of Secrecy

Burn before reading, of course!
  (+1, -3)
(+1, -3)
  [vote for,

Every government has secrets from other governments. It is always problematic for any government to decide who should be allowed to know what, within its own borders, lest outsiders gain that knowledge also, and thereby let enemies use it in a detrimental way. It is even more problematic for democracies, where the free flow of information is an inherently important aspect to maintaining the democracy. Whoever first said words to the effect that secrecy is the mother of tyranny -- that person spelled out the dilemma quite plainly.

Nevertheless, as long as there are competitors in the world, there will be secrets. They must be managed like other forms of information -- just more carefully. And, there are special considerations that must be taken into account in that management. For a government (maybe even other organizations, like corporations), it may be that a straightforward Department Of Secrecy might be the proper venue for such information management. Such a Department means that all the secrets can be somewhere under its roof. In organization, it might be something like the classic "cell system" of various underground groups (best description I know of cell system: "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert A. Heinlein). The cell system strongly resists an across-the-board loss of secrets, but allows the Department Heads to have a chance of knowing what both the left hand and the right hand are doing! If nothing else, knowing that alone can prevent wasteful duplication of secret efforts. But it also gives the Department Heads the chance to connect ideas from different secret operations, and I suspect that this is something that is sadly lacking in current organizations.

For a democracy, the biggest problem with such an organization was first spelled out by the ancient Romans: "Who will watch the watchers?" The best answer I know is that there must be more than one group of watchers, who watch each other in addition to the other stuff that they need to keep track of. History has shown that three such groups represent a stable social structure. For example, inside the former U.S.S.R., the triad of watchfulness was the Party, the Army, and the KGB. In the United States, the triad consists of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. In the Cold War, the triad was the USSR versus the US versus China. The USSR went bankrupt, but the European Union seems to be taking its place nicely....

For a Department of Secrecy, then, let me try to describe a unique cell system needed to accomplish a triad of watchfullness. The Chief Executive of the nation (or corporation) receives separate reports from the equal-level top three people in the Department. None of THEM can easily try to take away the Executive's job, because each has two competitors. Let me call them ARed, ABlue, and AGreen. There are three B-level cells, EACH of which contains people we can call BRed, BBlue, and BGreen. Each BRed reports only to ARed, each BBlue reports only to ABlue, and each BGreen reports only to AGreen. However, to accomplish the work of the cell, BRed, BBlue, and BGreen must work together. The cell may include more people, if that is needed to get the cell's job done, but only BRed, BBlue, and BGreen are in the communications ladder of the cell system. WITHIN a cell, everyone is supposed to know all about the job of the cell, and communications must occur freely among all people in the cell. The only secret of the cell should be the Red/Green/Blue identities. That is, everyone in the cell should know which three people are in the communications ladder (so they can be watched!), but nobody should know who they report to. (Well, except that BBlue will know about reporting to ABlue, of course.)

One of the checks-and-balances of this system relates to the passing of orders. ARed, ABlue, and AGreen make plans, and any of them can pass resulting commands along to any of the B-Level cells. So, if AGreen tells a B-cell to do something about which BRed is suspicious, BRed can report that to ARed, who can take any descrepancy in the cell A's planned commands to the next level, in this case the Executive, for resolution (AGreen might be fired). Even if not suspicious, BRed and BBlue will probably need to report what AGreen told their cell to do.

In describing Level C of this cell system, and it's relationship to B, this is exactly analogous to B's relationship with A. Any difficulty-of-understanding here relates to the fact that there are three B-Level cells, and nine C-Level cells. However, the three B cells are supposed to be independent of each other, and keep their secrets to themselves (and to the A cell, of course). Thus, each B cell is in charge of only three C cells, just like the A cell is in charge of the three B cells. And each C cell will be in charge of three D cells, and so on.

It is kind of neat that document and security-level classifications can be nicely correlated to A-Level, B-Level, and so on. However, I suspect that current "Top" secret stuff will likely be farther down the levels than one might first think, simply because there are lots of things that are declared Top Secret -- and the quantities of people to be involved with all those things can only be found in the lower levels of this organization. Nevertheless, a Department of Secrecy will not want to have too many layers, because it increases the chance of leaked secrets. One way through that conundrum may be that in order to accomplish many large secret projects, there perhaps should be more cells on a level than the described multiples-of-three. Such decisions will be up to those who actually run a Department of Secrets (and it need not change at all the described triad of watchfulness and communications, should each cell be in charge of four or five, instead of three).

Vernon, Jul 10 2003

A couple of secret services.. http://www.bbc.co.u.../intelligence.shtml
Some nice info, presented quite succinctly. (not refuting/supporting the above idea: just for people's interest) [Jinbish, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]


       What makes you think that this methodology isn't already used within the various secret services?
Jinbish, Jul 10 2003

       Baked. It's called compartmentalization and need-to-know.
phoenix, Jul 10 2003

       phoenix, I would say that it is NOT truly baked. In the US, Why did the CIA and the FBI not share needed data that might have allowed prevention of the terrorist attacks of 9/11? There was no structure in place to correlate the information! Why do conspiracy theorists think the CIA killed JFK? Because the CIA doesn't include built-in watchers, and so might have been able to get away with it! Why do other conspiracy theorists claim that there are commanders of various secret projects who are so far outside the system that almost nobody knows who they are, much less keep them under control? The idea presented here is for a framework that is placed in charge of ALL secret operations, encourages internal communications, and tries to guarantee accountability.
Vernon, Jul 10 2003

       Therefore you are saying that the uniqueness of the idea is one central body "Dept of Secrecy" to run the rule over the various sections.   

       Why the verbiage about cell structure then? That's the compartmentalization bit that is pretty baked. I realise that the hierarchical tree-like structure must be based on at least a factor of three so that at anytime 2 organisations can indepently spy on the other - thats not a new concept.
Jinbish, Jul 10 2003

       jinbish, the reason I presented the cell structure was to show how three groupings of watchers could coexist in one organization. Three organizations that watched each other would also work, but that would almost certainly mean triplication of lots of stuff, probably including secret projects. AND information held by one watcher-group would not necessarily be passed on to the others (left-hand/right-hand thing). Just to SAY that the three groups should be melded into one is not to say how it might be workable. And so I needed to be more specific.
Vernon, Jul 10 2003

       What phoenix said.
Shz, Jul 10 2003

       "In the US, Why did the CIA and the FBI not share needed data that might have allowed prevention of the terrorist attacks of 9/11? There was no structure in place to correlate the information!"
Because of compartmentalization and need to know! Your description is *exactly* how intelligence agencies operate today. If you could understand the sheer quantity of intelligence that's gathered, you'd appreciate how difficult it can be to correlate two seemingly dissimilar events as indicative of a significant future event.

       Neither agency thought they had information of interest to anyone else. Both agencies appear to have performed their jobs correctly, it's only in retrospect that there seems to have been a problem.   

       The Department of Homeland Security is supposed to be agency for national security issues like this in the future.
phoenix, Jul 10 2003

       And of course, there's always the Iraqi 'Minister of Information.'
RayfordSteele, Jul 10 2003

       phoenix, if one can broadly state that the purpose of the FBI is intra-national, and that of the CIA is extra-national, then linking the two is exactly what is needed to fight extra-national terrorists who want to get inside the U.S. to do damage. I do not disagree with compartmentalization, since it is indeed reasonably equivalent to cells of an organization, but I do think that there needs to be larger compartments that includes the sub-compartments, which can at least have the chance of correlating information between the sub-compartments -- especially information that does not correlate within a particular compartment. THAT is what led to the FBI and CIA each apparently not making a mistake: ignoring info that didn't fit within their own operations. Further, this is part of the answer to the sheer quantity of information, because each appropriate sub-compartment or cell would look for what was relevant to itself, condensing it so that the umbrella compartment can try to see how it fits with the leftover (not-yet-correlated) stuff. But currently there is no umbrella over both the CIA and FBI....
Vernon, Jul 10 2003

       "...I do think that there needs to be larger compartments that includes the sub-compartments, which can at least have the chance of correlating information between the sub-compartments..."
Yes, yes, but I'm trying to tell you that this is exactly what happens now. The problem isn't here, it's in dealing with the volumes of information that have to be sifted.

       "...because each appropriate sub-compartment or cell would look for what was relevant to itself..."
Again, this is what happens now. What one thinks is relevant has everything to do with what one passes up the chain of command. Can you see that? One can't pass everything up, so one picks and chooses.

       Supposedly, the most qualified people are making those decisions but these people work in a partial vacuum. Consequently, it's difficult to determine what's important and what's not. In my opinion, a Department of Homeland Security is not going to change that.
phoenix, Jul 10 2003

       You misunderstood. If I have 100 data items (sentences) and can correlate 90 of them into 10, then I pass 20 items up the ladder -- the 10 the didn't match plus the 10 I squeezed 90 into. Yes, I know the numbers are bigger and the correlation isn't that easy (I was actually assuming a bunch of redundancy, along with weeding out obviously erroneous items), but the problem is that currently the 10 that didn't fit are tossed out. "If we can't correlate it, then it must not be relevant." HAH! That's what causes the partial vacuum you mentioned!   

       I do admit that what you say about the sheer quantity of data may mean that there may need to be additional layers of data correlators who are not part of the flow of commands downward from the top (they don't create new plans/commands).
Vernon, Jul 10 2003

silverstormer, Jul 10 2003

       Heh, reensure, no, the word "roof" was used metaphorically. I know the value of distribution of assets.
Vernon, Jul 10 2003

       <sarcasm on> It's not baked.   

       Contrary to Popular Belief, I am not serving as the Vice Assistant to the Undersecretary of the United States Department of They.   

       They don't listen in on your phone conversations and They have NOT been talking behind your back. They do _not_ track cattle mutilations, They don't run Area 51 and They Absolutely Do Not Have The Corpses of Aliens. They just don't exist. They didn't turn your sister in for having weed, and They are not scoping out what web sites you are visiting (nor are They snooping through your email). They don't know how long you'll live, and They don't know the secret to eternal youth.   

       Really. They're not.   

       I think your idea is GREAT. There NEEDS to be a Department of Secrecy.   

       I have been serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Stuff since 1986. There is no Department of They. They Don't Exist.   

       If I actually WERE the Undersecretary for the United States Department of They, then the addition of a Department of Secrecy would make for a WHOLE LOT LESS PRESSURE for the "So Called Vice Assistant to the Undersecretary"... <sarcasm off>
timpestuous, Jul 10 2003

       Dag, I can assure you that They did not do it.   

       And a Critical Issue Response Team is not coming round to your house to hire you.   

timpestuous, Jul 11 2003

       This is not the voice mail recording of the US Department of They:   

       You have not reached the United States Department of They, as we do not officially exist.   

       If this were an actual agency of the US Government, you would have to listen to the following options and make a selection on your touch-tone phone:   

       If you are calling to report a cattle mutilation or crop circle, press one.   

       If you are calling to report an alien abduction or UFO sighting, press two.   

       If you are calling to hear what They have been saying behind your back all these years, press three.   

       If you are calling about the Trilateral Commission or the World Monetary Fund, press four.   

       If you are calling to report genetic mutations arising from cell phone use, prologned proximity to high-power wires, or as a result of an clandestine experiment conducted on you, press and hold five to transmit your DNA sample.   

       If you are calling to report sightings of the Flying Dutchman or phenomenon associated with Devil's Triangles in the Atlantic or in Alaska, press six.   

       If you are calling to report activities by the "Men In Black" or the Illuminati, please press seven and hold the line - a Critical Issue Response Team will be at your location soon.   

       If you are calling to report a space-time continuum shift, please have your Military Grid Reference or Latitude and Longitude ready and press eight then.   

       If you are stuck in a Cube or Hypercube Maze, press nine.   

       Due to the numerous sightings in Northern and Eastern California and in Alaska, we are no longer taking reports for Yeti or Bigfoot.   

       If you would like further assistance, please hold and an operator will not take your call.   

       This has not been a recording.
timpestuous, Jul 11 2003

       This is wild!
Just curious if any of the Arizona Bakers were there to see the live press conference where the Governor brought out a costumed Alien to explain sightings of unusual lights over Phoenix.
I just saw footage of this today and had a great old laugh.
Zimmy, Jul 24 2005


back: main index

business  computer  culture  fashion  food  halfbakery  home  other  product  public  science  sport  vehicle