Is this Paper Dangerous? Balancing Secrecy and Openness in Counterterrorism

Jacob N. Shapiro, David A. Siegel
2010 Security Studies  
This article sets out a framework for studying the power of secrecy in security discourses. To date, the interplay between secrecy and security has been explored within security studies most often through a framing of secrecy and security as a 'balancing' act, where secrecy and revelation are binary opposites, and excesses of either produce insecurity. Increasingly, however, the co-constitutive relationship between secrecy and security is the subject of scholarly explorations. Drawing on
more » ... . Drawing on 'secrecy studies', using the US 'shadow war' as an empirical case study, and conducting a close reading of a set of key memoirs associated with the rising practice of 'manhunting' in the Global War on Terrorism (GWoT), this article makes the case that to understand the complex workings of power within a security discourse, the political work of secrecy as a multilayered composition of practices (geospatial, technical, cultural, and spectacular) needs to be analysed. In particular, these layers result in the production and centring of several secrecy subjects that help to reproduce the logic of the GWoT and the hierarchies of gender, race, and sex within and beyond special operator communities ('insider', 'stealthy', 'quiet', and 'alluring' subjects) as essential to the security discourse of the US 'shadow war'. at 07:24:22, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at however, the co-constitutive relationship between secrecy and security is the subject of scholarly explorations. Across critical geography, anthropology, sociology, history, and cultural studies, a transdisciplinary field of 'secrecy studies' has emerged that offers insight into the complex interconnections and the generative powers of secrecy. 4 As this article contends, secrecy can be understood therefore as a nested set of practices, a composition that obscures, hides, and even makes illegible as a central part of the act of power. Beyond a binary and linear spatial conception of secrecy as inside/outside, covered/uncovered, concealed/revealed, enclosed/exposed, security discourses may rely on multiple layers of secrecy practices with associated meaning-making, an arcanum that includes geospatialities of secrecy, techniques and technologies of secrecy, cultures of secrecy, and spectacles of secrecy (see Tables 2-5) . As argued here, the result of these different layers is the production and centring of several different secrecy subjects that help to make sense of war. Security subjects within a discourse must be enrolled or hailed into subject positions. This interpellation, however, rests on a co-constitutive relation between these subjects and secrecy and the extent to which certain subjects are permitted or denied different secrecy practices. 5 Secrecy is therefore connected to the personal, embodied, raced, gendered, sexed, abled, and everyday ways of being and structures of knowing that make possible the broader international and transnational dimensions of power. 6 In other words, to study the social and political power of secrecy directs 'attention to the practices of concealment that cultures exert upon different subjects and in different ways'. 7 These practices produce not only the '[c]arefully scripted absences and silences' 8 of redactions, radio silences and cover-stories that state actors use to justify war, but also a composition and layering of 'insider', 'stealthy', 'quiet', and 'alluring' subjects as well. Therefore, taking inspiration from Critical Security Studies' engagement with assemblage theory, 9 , how might a turn to composition offer new insight? As this article proposes, the term and practice of composition looks both at the content, form, and relations within a textan approach more common in rhetoric and visual studies 10while also drawing attention to layering as a
doi:10.1080/09636410903546483 fatcat:prccwyv2yvazhdwqywxxo5757e