The Only Way to Tell the Truth is in Fiction: The Dynamics of Life in the National Security State

Presented at DEF CON 22 (2014), Aug. 8, 2014, 11 a.m. (Unknown duration)

Over a decade ago, a friend at the National Security Agency told Richard Thieme that he could address the core issues they discussed in a context of "ethical considerations for intelligence and security professionals" only if he wrote fiction. "It's the only way you can tell the truth," he said. Three dozen published short stories and one novel-in-progress (FOAM) later, one result is "Mind Games," published in 2010 by Duncan Long Publishing, a collection of stories that illuminates “non-consensual realities:” the world of hackers; the worlds of intelligence professionals; encounters with other intelligent life forms; and deeper states of consciousness. A recent scholarly study of “The Covert Sphere” by Timothy Melley documents the way the growth and influence of the intelligence community since World War 2 has created precisely the reality to which that NSA veteran pointed. The source of much of what “outsiders” believe is communicated through novels, movies, and television programs. But even IC “insiders” rely on those sources as compartmentalization prevents the big picture from coming together because few inside have a “need to know.” Thieme asked a historian at the NSA what historical events they could discuss with a reasonable expectation that their words denoted the same details. “Anything up to 1945,” the historian said with a laugh - but he wasn’t kidding. Point taken. This fascinating presentation illuminates the mobius strip on which all of us walk as we make our way through the labyrinth of security and intelligence worlds we inhabit of necessity, all of us some of the time and some of us all of the time. It discloses why “post-modernism” is not an affectation but a necessary condition of modern life. It addresses the words of an NSA intelligence analyst who responded to one of Thieme’s stories by saying, “most of this isn’t fiction, but you have to know which part to have the key to the code.” This talk does not provide that key, but it does provide the key to the key. It also throws into relief everything else you hear - whether from the platform or in the hallways - inside this conference. And out there in the “real world.” “Nothing is what it seems.”


  • Richard Thieme / neuralcowboy - ThiemeWorks   as Richard Thieme
    Richard Thieme is an author and professional speaker focused on the challenges posed by new technologies and the future, how to redesign ourselves to meet these challenges, and creativity in response to radical change and identify shift. His column, "Islands in the Clickstream," was distributed to subscribers in sixty countries before collection as a book in 2004. When a friend at the NSA said, "The only way you can tell the truth is through fiction," he returned to writing stories, 19 of which are collected in “Mind Games.” He is co-author of the critically acclaimed “UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry,” a 5-year research project using material exclusively from government documents and other primary sources, now in 50 university libraries. Speeches based on the book have been given for HITB-KL, an FBI/Infragard “superconference,” the Ryerson Astronomical Society at the University of Chicago, the Chicago Astronomical Society at Adler Planetarium, and dozens of libraries. A novel, FOAM, is in progress and “A Richard Thieme Reader” will be published soon. His work has been taught at universities in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States, and he has guest lectured at numerous universities, including Purdue University (CERIAS), the Technology, Literacy and Culture Distinguished Speakers Series of the University of Texas, the “Design Matters” lecture series at the University of Calgary, “The Real Truth: A World’s Fair” at Raven Row Gallery, London, and as a Distinguished Lecturer in Telecommunications Systems Management at Murray State University. He addressed the reinvention of “Europe” as a “cognitive artifact” for curators and artists at Museum Sztuki in Lodz, Poland. A full bio is at: twitter and skype: neuralcowboy linkedIn: Richard Thieme Facebook: Richard Thieme author page


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