Revelations

GLASSY DRIFT, ONDRAMEIR (BANNERS) – Responding to condemnations from the government of the United Viridian States and the Worlds United on Matters of Scientific Concern regarding their publication to the open extranet of nearly one petabyte of confidential scientific data originating within the States’ Secretariat for Military Affairs, the Council for the Promotion of Scientific Irresponsibility today issued a statement reading, in its entirety, as follows:

“Oops.”

On being pressed for further comment on the leak itself, Grand Provocateur Iroth Paluna said, “I cannot possibly comment on anything which – while we obviously encourage similar activities, and consider it very well done – no-one to whose local instance I have posed the question has any current knowledge of.”

The Grand Provocateur refrained from giving any further details of her inquiry.

 

Trope-a-Day: Public Execution

Public Execution: How things were done historically in the Empire – not for entertainment or bloodlust (they were generally rather solemn affairs), or for intimidation, but rather because of the transparency principles enshrined in the Imperial Charter; while the Imperial government might have lawful occasion to kill criminals, it was thought that this was not the sort of thing that ought to be done hidden away in a dark room somewhere.  If it had to be done, it ought to be done in the light, and those ultimately responsible should own the deed.

In more modern times, while executions are done in private, the record is still published along with all the other records of the case by the Ministry of Harmonious Serenity; the Transparency Act admits of no exceptions.

Transparency

A question that came up in a G+ discussion sprung from this post:

Both the military and business have a legitimate need for secrecy/non-transparency — does the eldraeic equivalent really operate with complete transparency?

There so, they would say, speaks the voice of statism and paranoia – probably with one of those pithy little proverbs about Dark deeds flourish in darkness; what cannot be done in the light ought not be done at all. By their standards, of course, by which they would claim that human society is pathologically obsessed with secretiveness, distrust, public opinion, and a particularly idiotic way of turning what are obviously productive and cooperative relationships into adversarial ones1.

The military – or rather, the government which makes it up operates under the most stringent requirements, of course. The Empire’s citizen-shareholders from before the founding down to the present day were very much not inclined to let people go around wielding power where it can’t be seen, because we all know where that leads to, thank you so very much. The constitutional settlement that permits the Empire to exist at all was very clear that if the sovereign powers were going to be wielded at all, they were going to be wielded right up front where everyone could see. Says so right in the Imperial Charter:

SECTION XII: TRANSPARENCY

Article I: Transparency

In order to promote good governance, and to ensure the fulfillment of the responsibilities to the citizen-shareholders of the Empire implicit in the coronargyr that is the basis of the right and authority to govern, the governments of the Empire and its constituent nations shall conduct their work as openly as possible.

Article II: Citizen Access

To fulfill this promise of transparency, any citizen-shareholder of the Empire, and any legal coadunation within the Empire, shall have the right of access to the documentation and archives of the government of the Empire; except for those which, for the public safety, must remain held in confidence, or which relate to public order operations currently in progress.

Something which is interpreted very strictly in the implementing Transparency Act as requiring the release of all information that can be released and permitting the distributed auditing of the Imperial government by any citizen-shareholder who cares to go digging through its files, and adjudicated unsympathetically with regard to contrary claims by a committee of the Court of Appeals for the Imperial Service, whose lords justice of appeal are functionally independent from the executive branch and selected by the College of Judicature that in turn answers only to the Curia, the supreme and independent judicial organ which is not at all interested in letting the Senate, the Imperial Couple, or anyone else play silly buggers with the rules by which it operates.

About the only things that a citizen-shareholder can’t see simply by going to es.gov and poking around are:

  • the majority of the (content of the) Personal Files relating to individual citizen-shareholders, who have a property-privacy right in that information that, in this case, supersedes the public’s right to know;
  • military files relating to military operations in progress3, only if necessary in the opinion of the CoAftIS, and which must in any case be released the very moment said operations are no longer in progress and no harm can be done by so doing;
  • constabular files relating to police investigations in progress, only if necessary in the opinion of the CoAftIS, which again must be released the very moment said operations are no longer in progress and no harm can be done by so doing (which is usually presumed to mean “at arraignment”);
  • Imperial State Security4 files relating to operations in progress (again, likewise, only if necessary in the opinion of the CoAftIS and while they’re in progress5) and/or which might compromise intelligence sources/agents in place6. All of these, of course, must still be released when their permissible-classification-time expires – and you’d be surprised how much gets released anyway.

The Transparency Act also adds some other minor fillips, such as providing that no exercise of the sovereign powers, such as the police power, is valid unless it’s on the record7. The police can exercise the rights of defense and common defense, same as anyone else, obviously, but anything they do by virtue of possessing the police power had damn well better be in a forensic log duly made available to the public for scrutiny, or it’s unlawful. Likewise, it has some very, very strict rules about destroying or losing information8.

Now, in the private realm10 – well, you don’t build a effective, cooperative, trustworthy (somewhat circularly, ’cause you have to give it to get it) team in a collegial atmosphere to get shit done by demanding that your employees cripple themselves by turning off this and shutting down that and avoiding communicating with the other, yadda yadda, just in case they might betray you later. What you create that way, very effectively, is an extremely toxic, paranoid, secretive work environment. And then you’ve just screwed yourself really hard.

Businesses, et. al., keep things from each other, sure, but if you can’t trust your own people, then you’ve already lost. And sure, sometimes this extending of trust doesn’t work out, but the damage that does is, by and large, far less than the damage of creating a seething sea of ick right up front.

Maybe all-y’all humans just suck at cooperating, they say. Seems like the polite possibility11.


Footnotes:

1. Employer/employee, business/customer, industrialists/environmentalists2, etc., etc., etc., ad totally naus.

2. “Environmentalists want less pollution. Industrialists want less waste. Pollution is waste. How for shit and waste heat did you monkeys screw this one up?”

3. Which, yes, does mean that people with an Imperial citizen-shareholder cert can go browse through, among piles of logistics data, routine patrol reports, the Board of Admiralty’s brandy rota, etc., etc., the Admiralty’s giant list of plans for invading absolutely everybody else and their big index of their Weapons Too Horrible To Use stocks. What? It’s not like no-one else has these things, it’s just that they lie a lot about them.

4. Which mostly means C&C and ExSec, and especially Fifth Directorate, bless their fuliginous hearts. (InSec loves to conduct intelligence operations as depicted in this beautiful ficlet that I regret not writing myself.) The other bits fall somewhere in the middle.

5. Even in cases like this, when it’s not going to immediately start a war, they’ll quite correctly publish the files after the exit briefing. (Some of these end up classified for years because if it were known, it would start a war; but by and large the Empire has no problem saying “yeah, we’re glad we killed the bastard” when they assassinate someone who needs killing, and the Iltine Union, dear fascists that they are, are at least smart enough not to want to walk into that meat-grinder. Besides, it’s not like anyone’s going to get that declassified factoid past the People’s Mental Hygiene Firewall of Ilth, either.)

6. Which does mean they release a crapton of stuff that ours don’t, obviously. Among the many things that annoys neighboring polities about ExSec is the amount of their classified information that gets routinely handed over from ExSec’s files to the public stacks of the Repository of All Knowledge, just ’cause it’s suitably unattributable.

7. This causes some squick among those foreign commentators who fail to realize that the Empire doesn’t have public executions as a deterrent, it has them as a very public statement that this is not the sort of thing that should be done in darkness, because it’s a short and slippery slope down from there to disappearing people at night and telling their friends they died in a car crash. Besides, if the consensus of the Mandate is that these classes of criminals should be made dead, then it’s both correct and necessary that the Mandate, it’s wielders, and the citizen-shareholders from whom it springs should own their gorram decision so, belike.

8. So, for one thing, any department that started losing e-mail the way the IRS seems to have been recently, for example, will have the Threefold Auditors of Impropriety all up in its business. If it’s just negligence, then people will just be fired en masse – since they do have sovereign powers, incompetence is absolutely not tolerated in the Imperial Service. If it turns out not to be negligence – well, then, that’s treason9, and the perpetrators will find themselves first before the Curial courts and then before a higher powers’.

9. The definition of treason covers a wide realm of possibilities in Imperial praxis, all things that involve fucking with the rights of the citizen-shareholders using the sovereign powers embodied in the Imperial Mandate they trusted you with to protect and uphold them. Basically, don’t.

10. Notwithstanding that this is also how the Imperial Service and Imperial Military Service treat their people. By and large, you don’t need to enforce a bunch of this stuff on the people walking around in Admiralty House12, ’cause if they couldn’t be trusted to treat the information they might happen upon with appropriate respect and in accordance with security best practices, they wouldn’t be walking around in Admiralty House.

11. Compared to “all-y’all humans are naturally treacherous”, anyway.

12. Non-canonical name.

Trope-a-Day: Big Brother Is Watching

Big Brother Is Watching: And his name, in the Empire, is Citizen Oversight.

Subverted, rather, inasmuch as it’s not principally a law enforcement instrumentality.  It, and its extensive surveillance/geolocation/other-sensory grid, drones, etc. – in public spaces only, and privately-owned-but-open-to-the-public don’t count (i.e., those places where, by law and custom, you have no expectation of privacy) – and its data mining/correlation application exist primarily to provide the raw data feed that gets broken down into the statistical information that even a government as minimal as the Empire’s needs to keep things running efficiently.  (Indeed, Citizen Oversight is not part of the Ministry of Harmonious Serenity with the other law enforcement/security instrumentalities; it’s under the Ministry of the Empire, instead, which mostly handles civic infrastructure functions and includes the Protectorate of Balance, Externality, and the Commons.)

They do, however, have non-sophont AI monitors watching the raw feed which will drop a line to the Watch Constabulary if they see a need for police or paramedics, or to the Emergency Management Authority, or to the people responsible for doing maintenance on public property, and so on and so forth.

Subverted doubly inasmuch as this is by no means a private government grid; under the Transparency Act – and because it helps to pay for it – it’s available for use by any member of the public who wants it, from advertisers, journalists, sousveillants and bloggers to the old lady down the street, with the commensurate uses they find for it in play.

It is to be noted that this isn’t supposed to be dystopian, nor would the notion that it might be even occur to anyone there – despite the fact that I, for one, wouldn’t trust any Earth government with even a fraction of this kind of panopticon.  In a culture that is both vastly more freewheeling than ours in most ways (and strongly maintains the notion in etiquette of not interfering in that which is not your proper concern) and which supports a much smaller and less intrusive government… well, the locals like the notion that ambulances will be dispatched to accidents before they’re done happening, that the police will always be called as soon as possible, that problems are reported instantly, that all the advertising they see is relevant to their interests, etc.