Imperial Secrets part 2

A continuation of my previous post about Patrick Kelley’s Imperial Secrets:

One of the things worthy of a mention separate from the main post was Kelley’s idea that physical structures can have an effect on information accessibility.  Now, in Kelley’s work he describes how the Ottoman Empire dealt with this problem (the restricted avenu0es of information in the Sultan’s court was counterbalanced by the informal information exchanges which came from the harem).

So, consider the following hypothetical situation:

Imagine an organization designed to be a clearing house of intelligence information.  Let’s say a definition of its function is something like:

…a collaborative effort of two of more agencies that provide resources, expertise, and/or information to the center with the goal of maximizing the ability to detect, prevent, investigate, apprehend, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.  Components of a [this agency] include the intelligence process, where information is collected, integrated, evaluated, analyzed, and disseminated. Other components include public safety, homeland security, private sector, and critical infrastructure.

Now picture this agency is located in a physically restricted space.  Proper identification is required to enter the same area as the agency.  Further security checks (and a more specific credential requirements) are required to enter the actual building where this agency is and people who don’t work in the building (regardless of their credentials) require escort.

Finally, this is not a ‘classified’ facility as defined by the national intelligence community.  No information is passed around that exceeds the ‘sensitive but unclassified‘ level.

So, given that, how likely does it seem that information would flow into that facility from individuals?  How easy might it be for people who work in such a facility to absorb information from the ‘outside world’?

Probably not so much since they’ve essentially been hermetically sealed from the outside world.

‘But wait!’ I hear you say.  ‘This is the 21st century.  People don’t need to physically interact.  People don’t need to physically go anywhere to acquire information.   The concept of ‘ground truth’ is highly overrated.’

So, let me add that in addition to concern for physical security there’s also an extreme concern over digital security and therefore, access to ‘teh internets’ is severely restricted.  What is unrestricted is messages from partner agencies (so long as they’re sent in the proper format and through the proper systems).

Such a system is going to give you (maybe) an abundance of one type of information but is unlikely to get you the sort of information you might want if you’re tasked with preventing strategic surprise.  In other words, don’t count too much on the ‘detect and prevent’ aspects of your goals but you could probably do a decent job of ‘responding’ and ‘disseminating’.

But…one wonders how much thought goes into the effects of physical structure on information accessibility and if there’s a conscious decision made to set up such centers this way (hypothetically speaking, of course).


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