The Ideals of John F. Kennedy Versus the Mandate of General Keith B. Alexander
Secrecy is the most effective political and intelligence tool employed by men of power. In fact, its stealth ultimately controls science, economies and chaos. Cyberspace has become the great equalizer and men of power have been called to take action against the awakening of the “Sheepal”. JFK’s spirit is alive and well almost five decades later.
Statement by General Keith B. Alexander, Commander United States Cyber Command, before the House Committee on Armed Services on September 23, 2010
The world is shifting its collective memory and sense-making capacity into digital forms. That wealth, moreover, exists in ways that are increasingly accessible by others. Time and distance are less relevant in the cyber domain than in any other. Telephones and computers and radios are essentially merging. That means our communications infrastructure is mostly computers talking to other computers. And remember that each of those computers not only moves data, it stores data in astronomical quantities.........freedom of action in cyberspace, like freedom of manoeuvre in the air, is crucial to the efficient employment of one’s forces in all domains. Likewise, the loss of such freedom could impair the capabilities we have built in all the other domains.
Conflict in cyberspace, moreover, is highly asymmetric. Minor actors can afford and deploy tools to magnify their effects; witness the recent press reports about arrests in Europe of several individuals charged with creating the so-called “Mariposa botnet”, a collection of 13 million computers slaved together for criminal purposes. The tools these actors can employ are almost anonymous, a defender can sometimes learn where an attack came from, but can be time-consuming. That means “attribution” in cyberspace is costly and comparatively rare. The “price” an adversary pays for a capability, a tool or weapon, can be slight; the cost and impact borne by the victim of his attack can be very high.
Speech by John F. Kennedy About Secracy on April 27, 1961
I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger. The events of recent weeks may have helped to illuminate that challenge for some; but the dimensions of its threat have loomed large on the horizon for many years. Whatever our hopes may be for the future, for reducing this threat or living with it, there is no escaping either the gravity or the totality of its challenge to our survival and to our security, a challenge that confronts us in unaccustomed ways in every sphere of human activity.
This deadly challenge imposes upon our society two requirements of direct concern both to the press and to the President, two requirements that may seem almost contradictory in tone, but which must be reconciled and fulfilled if we are to meet this national peril. I refer, first, to the need for far greater public information; and, second, to the need for far greater official secrecy.
The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.
That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it’s in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.