Trope-a-Day: Something Only They Would Say

Something Only They Would Say: A number of intelligence agencies and other organizations use this kind of call-and-response code as a non-technology-dependent shibboleth, but for the sake of extra security, they’ve more or less perfected the technique of embedding them into subconscious levels of the mind-state, so that the person using them doesn’t actually know what they are to give them away, even under duress.

Forgetting Is Mandatory

ISE SECURITY ADVISORY 4420-116

RESTRICTED (INFRARED)

Note: This document replaces ISE Security Advisory 4112-11. It is applicable to personnel of all levels of the Imperial Service and Imperial Military Service, and to all external contractors of the Imperial Service and Imperial Military Service, and all other individuals whatsoever endorsed with a security clearance issued by the Central Vetting Office.

All personnel are reminded that, per clause XVIII of the revised Official Secrets Act, all codeword clearance information classified above SECRET (YELLOW) is considered highly sensitive, remains classified even when stored within the mind-state of cleared individuals, and may not be exported to regions outside Imperial volumes. All personnel containing such data are required to report for noetic redaction of such information before departing the Imperial core volume or other equivalently secure-graded volume, except when it falls under need-to-know for a particular field operation.

It should be noted that clause XVIII applies to transit as well as destination. Personnel travelling outside the Imperial core volume to reach distant volumes also graded as equivalently secure must report for noetic redaction of such information; arrangements will be made to transmit it separately to the destination volume or for it to accompany them in an approved secure data transport system.

Strict adherence to these protocols is more important than ever in the light of the increased SOPHINT efforts seen around the Worlds. A prepared Empire is a secure Empire!

Question: Terrorism and Open Societies

Here’s another one from the question box: I received a link to this article from a skeptical reader who questions how – or indeed if – the sort of open society I describe could possibly cope with this sort of lone-wolf, home-grown terrorism by individual extremists, needing few contacts and little equipment.

First, just because you have an open society that, by and large, is not interested in investing a lot of time into controlling what people do doesn’t necessarily mean that your security services suck. (Indeed, one could convincingly argue that they ought to be better, inasmuch as they can spend all their time concentrating on things that are actually mala in se rather than wasting a lot of time on authoritarian-moistening bullshit.)

Suffice it to say, canonically, while greatly restricted in what they can do to people who haven’t committed any sort of crime, the Watch Constabulary and the Fourth Directorate are nonetheless very good at what they do.

Second, of course, is that the Empire is rather picky about who can get citizen-shareholdership in the first place, and extends this particular pickiness even to people who were born there. You don’t get it for free just by accident of birth; it comes with responsibilities as well as rights, and if you cannot sit under an alethiometer and honestly declare that, yes, you do intend to honor the Contract and the Charter and all their implications (something that your homegrown radical could not any more than a would-be immigrant one), no citizen-shareholdership for you. And if you fail that test badly enough, well, here’s a ticket, now get the hell out.

(This is naturally decried as extremely culturalist, which it is; the standard response to such criticism is that no, it’s not prejudice, they have a perfectly valid postjudice against cultures that don’t respect the sophont rights of others, and in any case, the opinions of a of bunch of self-asserted advocates for thugs, thieves, slavers, defaulters, and other such degenerates will be filed in the appropriate receptacle.)

And thirdly, the Eupraxic Collegium does have a compelling interest of ensuring that the ungoverned, self-organizing public are, well, sane and rational, that being what permits a free society like this to exist in the first place, and are well equipped so to do.

But lastly, of course and for the major part, is the difference in attitude.

As has been mentioned before, I believe, the Imperial legal view of self-defense (or, rather, self-and-others defense) is somewhat different than ours, in that one is not, for example, obliged to wait until someone actualizes a threat in order to respond to it. You are entitled to take people at their word: if someone threatens you or someone else nearby, you can preempt their attack with your defense all you like. There is absolutely no duty to retreat: someone who attacks, or threatens to attack, is by definition, eo ipso, etc., in the wrong and invited the painful consequences that are about to ensue. And, for that matter, they think “proportional response” is the damn silliest idea they’ve ever heard of (with the possible exceptions of fighting fair and telling the enemy that you’re coming), so if you have to put someone down, you’re entitled to make sure that they don’t get back up.

The Imperial Rules of Civilized Warfare mirror this pretty much exactly on the group level, as you might expect.

In the above article, one quotation given is:

“Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict,” an Islamic State spokesman said in a September audio speech. “Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling.”

…you can say that kind of thing relatively safely on Earth.

Hell, you could say that thing kind of safely to a lot of people in the Worlds who share similar attitudes to people on Earth.

But if you say that thing to or about the Empire, or Imperial citizen-shareholders, that’s a preemptive self-and-others-defense casus belli right there, and it’s probably even the kind that invokes the “we don’t need no steenkin’ central ruling, this is covered under ‘imminent threat that will not admit of delay'” clause that lets any local commander act on their own military authority.

There, you say that sort of thing from any sort of position of authority, and shit is going down. Hell, you just sent said shit a gild-edged, engraved, heavy-bond-paper invitation to come party at your place and bring all its implements of destruction.

And so, when it comes to another illustrative quote:

“They’ve realized, hey, if our intent is to scare the s–t out of people—to trigger heavy-handed responses by government, to force isolation of the Muslim community, pushing them to more radicalization—what do you have to do? Take two guys into a mall, shoot it up, and you’re done. You’ll be out of there in 15 minutes, and we’ll be talking about it for days and weeks and months.”

Well, it’s true that that would be an excellent way to trigger heavy-handed responses from the Imperial governance, yes. The problem, however, is that so far as opinion there is concerned, our idea of a heavy-handed response is so much self-harming (because tightening security inflicts pain upon many-n of your own people for every n bad guys it catches, even before you start counting false positives) theatrical bullshit.

The way you do a proper heavy-handed response to polity-encouraged terrorism is to send out Admiral Cluster Bomb to turn Mister-Likes-To-Make-Threats-And-Encourage-People into Mister-Ash-At-The-Bottom-Of-A-Glass-Lined-Crater, preferably before anyone actually has a chance to make good on any of said threats.

In short: what keeps terrorism out of the Empire’s open society is that, by and large, would-be terrorists’ sponsors and encouragers have much easier targets to pick on than the one that will murderize, tenderize, and vaporize you from orbit the moment after you open your mouth and then pat itself on the back, standin’ up for civilized values and all, for doing it, not a twinge of conscience needed.

And it’s not like this is a hidden or an inconsistent policy. They’re very open about this policy and they do it every time, and have been doing so for ever, which has the decided advantage of ensuring that it’s a very rare occasion when they have to do it at all.

Soulless

SREFULGENT LIAR

SECRET (YELLOW) / EYES ONLY REFULGENT LIAR

Among the most dangerous agents fielded by the Theomachy of Galia are the a’hugal (“soulless”), designated REFULGENT LIAR.

The a’hugal are operatives of the Theomachy’s highest-order intelligence agency, the Jeret-i-dín-Tanjgal (“Preservers of the Pure-Souled”), loosely analogous to the Fifth Directorate or to the Exception Management Group, and operate solely under its directives so far as is known. (While we have never observed a’hugal seconded to any other agency of the Theomachy, the possibility cannot be ruled out especially under exceptional circumstances.)

The a’hugal are created by the Jeret-i-dín-Tanjgal using off-the-shelf cerebral bridge technology to create a fork of a highly trained template agent; a technology, note, which is otherwise entirely proscribed within the Theomachy. The reason for the use of such technology in this case is identical with the reason for its general proscription: according to Galian doctrine, forks are mere soulless automata, and thus can commit any act without sin or spiritual penalty. Those who command the a’hugal refrain from instructing them in methodology; rather, they simply designate the problem to be solved, and in avoiding the knowledge of their methods, avoid the spiritual burden of ordering forbidden acts. The a’hugal acts on its own initiative thereafter.

Adhocs and overwatch of the Directorates SHOULD NOT underestimate the danger posed by REFULGENT LIAR units. While usually no better equipped than baseline Galians and possessing only baseline-equivalent mentality (although it should be noted that the “soulless” a’hugal are also exempt from the doctrine of spiritual corruption by augmentation found in Galian theology), the a’hugal are manufactured from templates that believe profoundly in their post-forking soulless state and the moral exemption that results therefrom. While this memetic indoctrination does not give them the long-term psychological stability enjoyed by the [REDACTED: ICE BLUESHIFT], in the short term they are capable of acting with the ruthlessness of ICE BLUESHIFT units in the field, and also retain the emotive capacity for the malice-sadism spectrum suppressed by ICE BLUESHIFT treatment.

Standing doctrine calls for the preemptive quieting of REFULGENT LIAR units in active operational areas.

Death Storage

D[redacted]
Secure Storage SWG, Fifth Directorate, Imperial State Security
Tertiary Monitoring Node

“Alert flag just came up: storage node 4-23-3317, outside penetration, profiled as hostile. Dispatching response team.”

“Belay that. Class 23, confirm?”

“Yes…”

“Then monitor the situation for an hour, and if the flag’s cleared down, send maintenance in to secure it.”

“Don’t we need to contain it? It’s an Aeon Pit site.”

“Yeah, but it’s death storage.”

“So it’s dead storage, but that doesn’t mean the contents aren’t dangerous to let out!”

“Not dead storage, death storage. One of those places where we keep the cleaners when they aren’t working so they don’t mingle with the nice people. They may be deadly, murderous bastards, but they’re our deadly, murderous bastards, so we can let them handle their own cleanup, read me? They’ll probably enjoy it.”

Trope-a-Day: MIB

MIB: The five… ah, four, directorates of Imperial State Security would be horrified to ever be this unsubtle – as would, for that matter, the Librarians of Silence – and, frankly, even when secrets need to be kept, they know perfectly well that eldrae don’t intimidate worth a damn.  Using any standard MIB tactics short of actual memory redaction is probably the surest way to get whatever knowledge you were concerned to keep secret spread absolutely everywhere on general principles.

Got to be persuasive, and disappear stuff quietly.

Trope-a-Day: Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Judge, Jury, and Executioner: The job of the Fifth Directorate, where existential threats and other excessionary events are concerned.  Rather strictly forbidden for everyone else (including the Shadow Fleet, Imperial State Security, etc. – although their legal procedure can, and often does, vary to fit the necessities of the cases they handle).  Even the Imperial Hands are obliged to strictly follow the law and respect the rights of sophonts and citizens, even if they are generally also empowered to carry their own miniature court around with them wherever they go.

(Of course, under most circumstances, for a non-governance chap, executing someone in the course of committing their special crime is just fine, but that’s not a law-enforcement function. That’s the inherent right of all sophonts to defend their lives, liberties, and properties – and those of people nearby – against rights-violatin’ Defaulter scum, belike.

The Watch Constabulary and above-mentioned bodies, however, are supposed to try to take ’em alive if doing so is possible without inviting worse consequences. But then, they’re also trained to; it is assumed that amateurs shouldn’t be required to try and do the fancy stuff, although they can if they like.)