Monday, November 21, 2005

It's a Mad Mad World

In the Cold War, Washington advertised one policy for the use of its nuclear weapons while privately holding a very different strategy.

The visible & public policy was referred to as Assured Destruction (the 'mutual' was later added by a critic to create a more derisive acronym). AD was the idea that the only sane application of nuclear weapons was a non-application - if both sides were completely confident that they would be destoyed in any altercation they would be unwilling to strike first, and so nuclear weapons would never be used. The opposing counterforce strategy (which Qwynne Dwyer in his book War claims Washington actually held even whilst professing AD) saw such weapons providing value above and beyond their deterrent effect through their potential delivery in a controlled and constrained manner in a conventional war .

So, the "real" policy was much less restrictive in its criteria governing the 'release' of the ICBMs. While AD was based on the premise that one side's missiles would only be lanuched in retaliation to a first strike from the other side (stringent criteria) - the counterforce policy asserted that weapons could be deployed in a range of situations, e.g. in a tactical manner even as part of a convential non-nuclear altercation (relaxed criteria).

(This is the exact opposite of what I might have expected, e.g. a public bluff of aggressiveness but a more realistic and sane private plan. Of course, there were vested interests involved for which the status quo of maintaining weapon expenditure was desirable)

I wonder if the idea of different public/private policies is relevant for any policy governing release of identity information? Would a provider claim to be governed by one policy whilst actually listening to another?

If the visible policy were less stringent than the actual, the provider would receive attribute requests that would be immediately rejected - requests that would not have been sent if the advertised policy were accurate. Beyond the inefficiency, this is a privacy leak as the provider would unnecessarily learn at which requestor sites the principal had been visiting. If the advertised policy were more stringent, then the requestor might not even send requests that would be approved had they been - doesn't seem much risk (or sense) in this.

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