SPIN member Dr Clare Stevens has published a new article within a special issue which she edited for Secrecy and Society on secrecy and technologies. The article takes a critical look at the security and secrecy discourses surrounding a process called the Vulnerabilities Equities Process, a procedure that agencies in the United States government have implemented and then publicized in the face of criticisms against their institutionalized computer hacking capabilities.
Many official secrecy and security discourses are shot through with urgency, and with technologically determinist claims about the effects of external technological or temporal pressures. Rather than take these securitizing discourses at face value, this paper seeks to develop a conceptual and analytical framework that can help scholars theorize disclosure, and its temporal and technological mediations, more fully. Although the empirical focus is on cybersecurity in the US, the conceptual and theoretical work in this paper will be useful to many scholars more broadly researching matters of security who wish to critique the associated assumptions that secrecy or disclosures produce security.
This open access article is available on the Secrecy and Society website.
State secrecy and disclosure practices are often treated as processes of intentional and strategic human agency, and as forms of political time management (Bok 1982; Horn 2011). Through a critical analysis of the United States government’s disclosure practices in the context of their discourse around the cybersecurity “Vulnerabilities Equities Process” (VEP), this paper will present a two-fold argument against these conventional treatments of secrecy and disclosure. While government secrecy and disclosure can certainly be understood as a form of (agential) timing, orientation and control (Hom 2018), this paper will also show how government secrecy practices are emergent at the point of relations with the structuring (but not over-determining) temporalities of various technologies. More than just the procedural containment of information, in which time and technologies feature as passive substrates, the paper will instead help scholars explore the ways that technologies and their times actively mediate the production of secrecy, disclosure and knowledge. By shifting beyond linear conceptions of cause-and effect, the paper will therefore theorize the understudied but important temporal dynamics of disclosure, thereby allowing for richer conceptualizations of the role of digital technologies in contemporary secrecy practices.