U.S. tries to convict Jeffrey Sterling for retroactively classified documents about rotary phones




What about how to use the rotary phone when the agent IS in the office?


“Kafka-esque” is no longer an adequate adjective.


Just asking brings you under suspicion.

My very first job out of college was working with the local telephone company, and I think I can safely reveal they too had documents relating to this sensitive technology… and even more advanced models, such one code-named Princess.


Back in my counter-counter-intelligence days I would spend hours just chatting with my black ops colleagues on the code-name PRINCESS phones. Just lying in bed, heels kicking in the air, talking about boys and nuclear missiles and everything and nothing. Things were just so much simpler back then. Now-adays it is just quick text messages and emails, everyone seems so busy now. Sigh.


The only secret that seems to remain classified about project Princess is the methodology by which the coiled cord can become untangled and have it’s coiling direction corrected because sometimes, a couple of coils flip.


Exactly how the cable coils flip, and how to undo the flipping is matter of national security. The topological vector morphology equations needed to explain it are critical to the cryptographic methods used to communicate with agents residing in the near-past parallel dimensions.

Though as a fun Easter Egg, try getting a prime number of coils to flip the wrong direction. Dial your mom’s phone number backwards, and you can hear her thoughts! Fun!


But seriously, what was ever secret about the use or design of rotary phones ?
Just answering this might ridiculize any of those involved in this farce !


The secret was that thing William Hurt did in Gorky Park.
He turned the dial between ‘1’ and ‘2’ and stuck a pencil through the finger hole below the stop, trapping the rotary dial in an in-between state.
It was to keep sneaky spies from listening in on it.


I was just showing the guts of a dial phone to my friend’s kid the other day. There are two sets of switch contacts on the dial mechanism. One does the pulsing of the number by disconnecting (“hanging up”) the line 10 times a second. The other one shorts out the microphone so that the person on the other end doesn’t hear the pulses, which would hurt their ear.

That pencil trick will close the mic shorting switch, the equivalent to a MUTE button on a modern office phone. So chalk one up to movie realism!


May or may not work. Some approaches from that era used high frequency signal, which capacitively coupled across the disconnected switch. That way you could use the microphone even when the unmodified phone was hanged up. As a bonus, if I remember correctly, the carbon grains in the microphone were more sensitive at the higher frequency driving/biasing signal.


Ex Post Facto used to mean something in the US.


No, it never meant what you thought it did. We’ve changed the meaning retroactively.


We have always been at war with rotary telephones.


The Constitution prohibits Congress from passing an ex-post-facto law or bill of attainder. It doesn’t say anything about the Executive Branch making an ex-post-facto interpretation of what conduct falls within the boundaries of the law.

So, the executive can decide that eating mashed potatoes gives aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States; an attainder of treason can therefore be found against anyone who at any time in the past has eaten mashed potatoes.

The law doesn’t mean what anyone thinks it means.


Buried Lede - it’s not till you get near the end that you find out that (in case you don’t know, which I didn’t)
this is about James* Risen at NYTimes, trying to send one of his sources to jail.

(Also, you can’t really have an article about re-classifying information about rotary phones without throwing in some video clip or other from The President’s Analyst, because everybody hates the phone company.)

[Edited because I botched Risen’s first name when I first posted it.]


Coburn ftw!

How are the jurors keeping a straight face through all of this? I didn’t RTFA, but honestly, the judge would probably have to throw me out, I’d be unable to not openly snicker at this nonsense.


Yeah but that was to get across the gap in the gravity switch, which you rest the handset on. Blocking the rotory dial creates a second gap in the circuit. This increases the total gap by (probably) a factor of 2 and reduces the transmitted signal by a factor of 4.


It’s a breakfast cereal, how is that relevant?


Since the whole object of this trial is to cow potential whistleblowers into silence, if I was one of the jurors I would be very worried indeed about the surveillance I might experience in future. Laughing at the evidence could result in future constant harassment. The one thing people in power cannot bear is to be laughed at.