When is a secret not a secret?

When three million people know it.

More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked “protect” or “strictly protect”.

When that many people have access, the reason it’s secret isn’t to keep it from the foreign powers. (They already know)

It’s to keep it secret from you.

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3 Responses to When is a secret not a secret?

  1. Bruiser says:


  2. *bzzzzt* wrong.

    “cleared to have potential access” does not mean 3 million people have access.

    There are two parts to information security in the defense/intel world: First is “clearance”, which means you are eligible to access information. Second is “need” which means you have a legitimate to need to access the information. Unless both are met, you don’t see it. So there aren’t 3 million people looking at every bit of classified info.

  3. Justthisguy says:

    Greg, I remember when I got my interim Secret Restricted Data clearance as a young NASA co-op, 40 years ago. My boss just checked all the boxes in the “need to know” form. I immediately went over to the Redstone library and checked out the microfiche of the Orion nuclear-pulse rocket, of course. Man that thing was cool. Unlike *some* people, I think that I have kept my promise not to tell, even though I have seen some strangely familiar-looking drawings since then on the public Internet.

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