The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

Greg Linch § Matching cuts / 2014-09-16 18:18:15
Inque § Matching cuts / 2014-09-05 13:27:23
Gavin Craig § Matching cuts / 2014-08-31 16:33:56
Tim Maly § Sooo / 2014-08-27 01:35:19
Matt § Sooo / 2014-08-25 02:10:30
Tim § Sooo / 2014-08-25 00:49:38
Robin § Sooo / 2014-08-21 20:47:35
Doug § Sooo / 2014-08-21 20:40:50
Tim § Sooo / 2014-08-21 18:23:13
Gavin § Sooo / 2014-08-21 18:10:44

A different take on too much information
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The anecdote Kevin Drum excerpts in this post was the single most fascinating exchange recounted in the terrific documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. This is what Ellsberg told Henry Kissinger when he was asked for advice on the Vietnam War:

“Henry, there’s something I would like to tell you, for what it’s worth, something I wish I had been told years ago. You’ve been a consultant for a long time, and you’ve dealt a great deal with top secret information. But you’re about to receive a whole slew of special clearances, maybe fifteen or twenty of them, that are higher than top secret.

“I’ve had a number of these myself, and I’ve known other people who have just acquired them, and I have a pretty good sense of what the effects of receiving these clearances are on a person who didn’t previously know they even existed. And the effects of reading the information that they will make available to you.

“First, you’ll be exhilarated by some of this new information, and by having it all — so much! incredible! — suddenly available to you. But second, almost as fast, you will feel like a fool for having studied, written, talked about these subjects, criticized and analyzed decisions made by presidents for years without having known of the existence of all this information, which presidents and others had and you didn’t, and which must have influenced their decisions in ways you couldn’t even guess. In particular, you’ll feel foolish for having literally rubbed shoulders for over a decade with some officials and consultants who did have access to all this information you didn’t know about and didn’t know they had, and you’ll be stunned that they kept that secret from you so well.

Read the rest of the quote for a sort of terrifying description of the rest of the process.

One comment

The comments over on that post are fascinating and slightly terrifying. They’re actually fairly intelligent and even erudite, it’s just that when they talk about information they talk past each other so much and mean such different things it makes one queasy. We can’t even have an abstract conversation about national security and information and secrecy without getting confused by our differing concepts and language; let alone a specific one!

Ellsberg’s book Secrets is really amazing and highly recommended.

This is why I’m a big fan of Steven Aftergood’s Secrecy project.

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