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What Is The Government’s Big Secret?

Yesterday, out doing errands, Matthew and I played a kind of game, inquiring of ourselves, “What Is The Biggest Thing The Government Isn’t Telling Us?”

(Besides the aliens stuff, of course.)

The one that came to mind for me was that they are working on weapons vastly more deadly and sinister than anything the public has yet imagined. Matthew’s was much better, in my view:

“That they have far more mass surveillance capability than even Edward Snowden revealed — and that they use it.”

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that is probably the truth. We had fun, in a perverse, apocalyptic way, wondering if there are government secrets so dark that even the president isn’t allowed to know them. (Such as: “… and the NSA is surveilling the president too.”

So, open thread: What do you think is the Biggest Thing The Government Isn’t Telling Us?

78 Comments (Open | Close)

78 Comments To "What Is The Government’s Big Secret?"

#1 Comment By Vito T On September 20, 2015 @ 7:05 pm

What an odd game to play with one’s child. It certainly sets a narrative. Go BenOP?

[NFR: He’s an intelligent 15 year old boy who loves sci fi. He came up with the question, just for fun. Are you surprised that a kid like that would come up with a question like this? Do you know any brilliant geeky teenagers? — RD]

#2 Comment By Turmarion On September 20, 2015 @ 7:59 pm

The Sasquatch is behind it all!

[NFR: That’s not a secret, mister. — RD]

#3 Comment By Herenow On September 20, 2015 @ 8:30 pm

That they just pretty much make it up as they go along, and no-one’s really knows where they’re going.

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 20, 2015 @ 8:39 pm

The government has already written off the East, West and Gulf Coasts.

Nice try. That’s where most of the taxable wealth is, all of the ports — important both for oceanic trade and naval facilities — and a huge portion of the draftable population if it comes to that again.

The Mena Airport stories are true. The CIA was funding cocaine distribution. Bush Sr. and Clinton knew about it.

So the Black Panthers were right about that?

David J. White takes the thread. Its about what my mother would have said.

#5 Comment By EngineerScotty On September 20, 2015 @ 8:50 pm

That Hillary really does have a sense of humor?

#6 Comment By Franklin Evans On September 20, 2015 @ 9:02 pm

Name that movie: “Two words, Mr. President: plausible deniability.”

The Big Secret Hiding in Plain Sight is that the government powers that be are manipulating the eligible voters to make sure only about half or less of them show up to vote in any given election.

It doesn’t matter which party is in power, either.

#7 Comment By Lord Karth On September 20, 2015 @ 10:08 pm

Franklin Evans: That was Secretary of Defense Edward W. Nimziki, from Independence Day on board Air Force One after the initial alien attack.

President Whitmore was asking about the alien-research program at Area 51, and how it was funded. Which led to what I thought was one of the funniest and most true-ringing lines in a movie of its type; “You don’t really think they spend $ 20,000 on a hammer, $ 30,000 on a toilet seat, do you ?”

Cinematically yours,

Lord Karth

#8 Comment By Rich On September 20, 2015 @ 10:15 pm

There is a reason everyone has this feeling that there is a conspiracy against us. It’s because there is. But here’s the thing: it’s not the government (at least not directly); It’s the demons. Principalities and powers, people.

#9 Comment By Steve Gerrard On September 20, 2015 @ 11:11 pm

The NSA reads all emails between all CEO’s, and sends insider information to the hedge fund managers. Everyone with the 1 million minimum needed to invest in hedge funds benefits from it, so there are no complaints from the wealthy. The rest of us are just losers.

#10 Comment By Todd On September 20, 2015 @ 11:35 pm

This question hurts my brain. I do sometimes wonder how frequently, if at all, massive terrorist attacks are secretly averted around the world.

Not even secretly, imagine someone at that flight school called the right person at the FBI in July 2001. Would the story of the FBI arresting some Saudis on visa charges even get a mention in the New York Times?

If someone called the Secret Service office in Dallas back in 63. They put a tail on Lee Harvey Oswald and he didn’t go through with it. Even the agents might not think it any different than the dozens of investigations they do every week on various crazies.

Every week you see some random article about some nut threatening the president or some other nut (or group of nuts) trying to buy bomb materials or some such. It happens so often it’s not news.

There are also public things that no one remembers. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the US spent billions securing their nuclear weapons, materials and scientists. If one of those nukes had fallen into the wrong hands, as was likely, and it was detonated that incident would be seared in our collective memories.

That the government spent a few billion preventing it? that’s not news.

[NFR: A former senior official in the Bush administration told me once that he felt a lot safer after he left his post and moved away from Washington. Why? Because knowing all the threats that they were dealing with on a daily basis, things that the public never learned about, unnerved him. — RD]

#11 Comment By Todd On September 20, 2015 @ 11:39 pm

A quick U.S.-sponsored deal had Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan handing all their nukes over to Russia, and American cash helped safeguard the weapons at a time when the new governments couldn’t even afford to pay military wages on time.

Additional U.S. incentives offered jobs to disgruntled nuclear scientists from the former Soviet Union, many of whom were courted by nations like Iran.


#12 Comment By Lemur866 On September 20, 2015 @ 11:40 pm

Yes, the budget and debt are unsustainable and will crash at some point. But people who think that means the end of the United States are just being silly. When we can’t pay the interest on the debt and pay for all the pensions and welfare and social security and whatever, it’s pretty easy to just pass a law telling the creditors to piss off. What you thin–that if we owe a 100 trillion dollars to the Chinese and they want their money and we can’t pay we have to sell them the country, like when Kmart goes bankrupt? Who’s going to make us?

Yes, eventually we might have to either default or inflate our currency so badly that creditors get paid exactly what they’re owed, but it will cost $10,000 for a hamburger. That doesn’t mean the country ceases to exist and we’re fighting mutant warlords in the desert. Lots of countries have gone bankrupt over the centuries, have lost wars, have defaulted on debts, have bollixed up their economies. And most of those countries muddled through somehow, with various amounts of crying and whining.

#13 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 21, 2015 @ 1:29 am

Deep State government is keeping us safe(tm), and if we found out how, they’d have to kill us.

#14 Comment By JonF On September 21, 2015 @ 5:59 am

Re: The government has already written off the East, West and Gulf Coasts.

More like, it’s written off the heartland.

#15 Comment By grumpy realist On September 21, 2015 @ 6:11 am

That most of the stuff labeled “Top Secret” is actually mundane ordinary stuff labeled so because of the egos of the people involved.

#16 Comment By William Burns On September 21, 2015 @ 7:15 am

“The government has already written off the East, West and Gulf Coasts.

Nice try. That’s where most of the taxable wealth is, all of the ports — important both for oceanic trade and naval facilities — and a huge portion of the draftable population if it comes to that again.”

Why do you think they’re keeping it a secret?

#17 Comment By Anand On September 21, 2015 @ 7:18 am

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii… but he’s actually a Vulcan.

And Donald Trump is a Ferenghi.

#18 Comment By kgasmart On September 21, 2015 @ 7:23 am

This is a hiding-in-plain-sight thing, but: I know a guy who works for a congressman who’s the biggest “doomer” I know – which sort of freaks me out, because he’s in a position to know things.

His take is that government fiscal policy is completely unsustainable and headed for a crack-up, and everybody (in Washington) knows it, but no one is willing to try and stop it because doing so – “Sorry, constituents, but government actually does have to spend less money now” – will get them un-elected.

And that this mentality is the reason for our stock market bubble, which everyone (again, in Washington) knows is going to burst; and that the authorities have taken many measures to prepare for the civil unrest that could result from another economic calamity a la 2008 (which spawned Occupy; maybe it spawns something bigger this time around).

#19 Comment By Kirk On September 21, 2015 @ 8:12 am

How many military coup d’états have been quietly squashed by the Pentagon in the past fifty years.

I wish I could take credit for that one, but I came across it in a thriller. It just sounds true.

#20 Comment By Franklin Evans On September 21, 2015 @ 10:34 am


So very well done, with extra bonus points for quoting the part about military spending and the costs of things. I also like the “Men in Black” take on that.

#21 Comment By Patrick Gatti On September 21, 2015 @ 11:01 am


Fear not. Most Congressmen are dolts.

#22 Comment By cdugga On September 21, 2015 @ 11:05 am

Very simply that the consumer price index where inflation is measured without including energy and food, does not account for the real inflation that most americans have to deal with. No need to look for secrets that could not really be kept anyway, like, we never really went to the moon. Focus on other bizarre conspiratorial things like NSA agents watching us 24/7 just distracts from real issues. What we don’t know is less likely to kill us than what we deny and replace with entertaining fantasy. Fantasy serves in place of responsibility. We joke here, but the social pathology is real and probably the main reason we end up with the type candidates we have who say nothing of substance and concentrate on fantasy issues like secular attack on religion, queer attacks and the war on values, or the immigrant invasion and how we should insist everybody speak amurican. It is asinine.

#23 Comment By The Other Eric On September 21, 2015 @ 11:10 am

Government is closer to an ecosystem than an organization.

Top Secret is really just a tool used to prevent critical analysis of poorly written reports.

There are no real secrets. Everything is hidden in plain sight.

#24 Comment By long way home On September 21, 2015 @ 11:23 am

The “we’re doomed because of BANKRUPT!” stuff is silly. Federal government debt is a not-unmanageable portion of GDP. Smaller than Germany’s, I think.

#25 Comment By arrScott On September 21, 2015 @ 11:34 am

This is a hiding-in-plain-sight thing, but: I know a guy who works for a congressman who’s the biggest “doomer” I know – which sort of freaks me out, because he’s in a position to know things.

Yeah, no. Your friend is not, in fact, in a position to “know things.” That’s possibly the biggest “secret” of all: The people we believe to be in “a position to know things” aren’t, and don’t. Congressional staffers, even the well-informed ones, don’t actually have all that much access to “inside” information from the executive branch, and that’s OK, because most secret information isn’t all that valuable. As we’ve seen time and again with supposed “failures” of intelligence, the problem is never that the information cannot be or was not gathered; the problem is that the people who could conceivably do something useful with collected intelligence didn’t get the data they would have needed in time, or ever.

I have seen the flow of information around Washington up close for more than two decades, and the simple fact is that there just isn’t this glamorous network of super-informed insiders. There are a few people, mostly in the press, who fancy themselves super-informed insiders, but mostly the government is just midlevel bureaucrats who get assigned on short notice to learn about issues about which they know little in order to give a briefing report to political appointees who know nothing. Even on issues of critical national security, this is how Congress informs itself, and it’s even how the executive branch tends to work. The few true subject-matter experts tend to be senior congressional staffers and career executive-branch civil servants who don’t work at State, and their expertise comes from years of dedicated attention as interested students of an issue, not from access to streams of classified super-knowledge. Pick an issue, and if you read the publicly available trade press that covers the issue and attend any major industry or academic conferences on the issue, you’ll know more about that issue than anyone in Washington, no matter how much intelligence the NSA supposedly gathers about the matter.

I’d say the biggest surprises about the federal government are that there is no vast conspiracy – our government workers have neither the competency nor the information to pull such a thing off, no matter how much useless and boring reams of useless information is marked “classified” – and that most of the people who work for the government, including most elected officials of both parties, are honorable patriots with good intentions doing their level best.

Also, Jimmy Carter’s rabbit thing was a cover story for a Sasquatch encounter, which spurred a secret program to eradicate bigfoot from North America. Under Clinton, the program was shut down, with Sasquatch determined to be extinct in the lower 48 states as well as all 10 Canadian provinces.

#26 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 21, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

The government knows that electronically-called balls and strikes (the home plate ump would have a beeper in his pocket and would still appear to still be calling balls and strikes) would be inexpensive and would introduce a much-needed level of accuracy and fairness to baseball at the major league level.

BUT the government also knows that if we no longer got so upset at umps over their truly awful balls and strikes calls, we would have more time to get upset about other things. For example, suppose – April to October — I personally had an extra 3-4 hours a week to get enraged about something other than bad balls and strikes calls? That’s GOT to scare the BeJebus out of half the US government intelligence (OK, oxymoron) establishment! I figure NASA would have to set up a special unit just to deal with the change-of-direction of my daily April-October bouts of rage.

#27 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On September 21, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

[NFR: A former senior official in the Bush administration told me once that he felt a lot safer after he left his post and moved away from Washington. Why? Because knowing all the threats that they were dealing with on a daily basis, things that the public never learned about, unnerved him. — RD]

This does not exactly inspire confidence. Because you can bet the farm that at least ONE of these “threats” is bound to slip through the cracks.

#28 Comment By Junior On September 21, 2015 @ 11:08 pm

The governments big secret is that they’ve secretly replaced all aluminum with nickel-plated copper, as is evidenced by my belief in 90% of these posts. Obviously my Reynolds Wrapped Yankees Cap isn’t working properly and so I’ll have to come up with a new defensive strategy 🙂

The REAL secret is that the government know that it’s not the conspiracy theorists but the people who blindly believe that the government would never lie to us and do EVERYTHING in their power to cover up those lies who are actually the ones that should be wearing tinfoil hats. THAT is the secret.

Oh! And also something Jew-ey because that just FEEEELS like it’s right. 🙂

Good one Noah172! Lol