SECRET CODEWORDS OF THE NSA: SPHINXwoodblock print (mokuhanga)
6" x 6" (152.4 x 152.4 mm)
2 layers of color plus blind emboss on Kochi Kozo paper
SPHINX is a counterintelligence database of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which is a part of the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD themselves define counterintelligence as "information gathered and activities conducted to protect against espionage… sabotage, or assassinations conducted by or on behalf of foreign governments or elements thereof, foreign organizations, or foreign persons, or international terrorist activities." In the popular culture, we often think of double agents when we hear the word counterintelligence, and most spy stories are about this kind of intrigue.
For my woodblock sphinx, I chose to use the Greek version of this mythical creature. Unlike the Egyptian sphinx, which is typically shown as male and viewed as benevolent, the sphinx of the Greek tradition is female, often with wings, and is considered treacherous and merciless. She often presents a riddle to be solved (see Oedipus) and those who cannot answer the her riddle are killed and eaten.
For the NSA's sphinx, I used the head of Lady Liberty. She holds some very important riddles for us in this age of surveillance. As Edward Snowden said in his recent interview with NBC's Brian Williams, "I think it’s really disingenuous for the government to… exploit the national trauma that we all suffered together and worked so hard to come through to justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe, but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don’t need to give up and our Constitution says we should not give up."
Help us with your riddle, Lady Liberty.
Oh, and here's a real gem of a video from the FBI about the dangers of being recruited into a life of spying. Her name is "Amanda." The video reminds me so much of the old movies about the dangers of homosexuals, or of smoking pot. It's 28 minutes, and I will admit that I didn't watch the whole thing, but just a few minutes will be all you need. (More on the FBI web site, which claims that the video is based on a real-life story.)