06 March 2014
SECRET CODEWORDS OF THE NSA: KLONDIKE
woodblock print (mokuhanga)
6" x 6" (152.4 x 152.4 mm)
6 layers of color plus blind emboss on Kochi Kozo paper
K is for klondike. My sources say Klondike is "a control system for sensitive geospatial intelligence." 'Control system' refers to a type of intelligence known as sensitive compartmented information (SCI), a type of security clearance that is even higher than Top Secret clearance. SCI is subdivided into different control systems, and access to various control systems is granted on a case by case basis. The Klondike control system protects sensitive geospatial intelligence: physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth, and because it's classified as SCI intelligence it's the most secret of all the secrets. Really really secret.
The word Klondike also refers to the Klondike region of the Yukon in northwest Canada and Alaska where a gold rush occurred in the 1890s. I thought that the image of a prospector panning for gold was an apt metaphor for sifting through large amounts of data looking for special nuggets.
I hate that the NSA is spying on us, but as I was thinking about this image of the prospector I found myself feeling implicated in the same kinds of temptations. Really, who can blame the NSA for wanting to sift through all that juicy data? I mean, don't we all do it? Don't we all search out old friends or enemies on Facebook, or Google a prospective date or a new colleague? Are we looking at secret stuff, or just looking at what's there to look at? And don't we feel oh so powerful and smart because we have all the world's knowledge at our fingertips or in our back pocket? In a way, the NSA is just doing what we all do but on a massive — and probably illegal — scale.
This week, as I was working on this print, I read an article asserting that stores are now tracking smartphone signals in malls to follow customers' movements. It's not just the government that wants to find those valuable nuggets in the river of data. Every good capitalist wants it, too.