Not all secrets are alike: nuclear culture and fear of the next Snowden



It is exceptionally strange how the ‘contagion’ of wrongdoing seems to attach to the person pointing it out, rather than the person committing it; as though it somehow didn’t exist until pointed out.

Maybe people never quite grasp ‘object permanence’ after all, and may go throughout life not realizing that a crime must have existed behind the veil for somebody to reveal it…


It feels like politicians, business, and media deal with spin so often, they genuinely forget there is a reality beyond it. From that perspective, things don’t exist until pointed out, and while solving problems can be nice public relations often does the exact same thing.

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What does “nuclear culture” have to do with this? The author never mentioned it in his essay. In fact, it seems like this essay argues the opposite of nuclear culture (the culture of those involved in developing nuclear weapons). Nuclear weapons are a military secret while NSA spying was a public secret. And the culture that protects nuclear weapon secrets continues to do so because they feel it is ethical to keep those secrets out of the wrong hands, while the culture that protects public secrets will continue to leak them because they violate the public trust.

Edit: Additionally, the government will try to make it look like leaking public secrets is the same as espionage (selling to a government or organization–not leaking) or the leaking of military secrets because it knows that using a strawman argument is the only way it can twist the public perception to make it look like the government is the aggrieved party and not the aggressor.

Edit 2: This also supports the author’s point that the government is more angry about the release of public secrets than military secrets. Military espionage (like the stealing of submarine soundproofing technology) can be treated as a crime. But public secrets need a smear campaign and a disproportionate response in order to get the public on their side.

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Nuclear culture in that the general populace should just go on believing everything is fine and spend more money at WalMart, despite there being maniacs, sycophants, halfwits, and outright plutocrats in charge of the world.

If you see the flash, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye…

Clarify please. Are you trying to say that there are real threats and that the public secrets that have recently been released were harmful to national security or are you trying to say that public secrets sometimes are not released because the public is complacent about it? And what does this have to do with nuclear culture?

I’m not sure what nuclear culture is, let alone what it has to do with this editorial.

I agree there’s a difference, morally, between giving a classified weapon system specification to a foreign power and revealing a classified domestic surveillance program to a newspaper. Those are not the same things. I also agree with the analogies given that suggest public/bad secrets enable bad behavior. I’m not sure ‘public secret’ is the right term, though. I would hope bad behavior is worth leaking about even if people don’t suspect it to be true.

Well, a person who knows nuclear secrets, can have original ideas, which are, from the moment they think them, classified. It is an odd thing.

“Nuclear culture,” in quotes because it’s the snapshot bio of the author of the article, which appeared in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. If there’s a magazine for it, there’s a (sub?) culture.

It’s not that the wrongdoing naturally attaches to the person who points it out; the real wrongdoers have to do a lot of work to make it happen.

For some, peeka-a-boo remains the ultimate thrill-ride

I was just reminded of Mordecai Vananu. That’s some good whistleblowing. He’s still in Israeli jail.

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