The Only Way to Tell the Truth is in Fiction: The Dynamics of Life in the National Security State presented at BsidesLasVegas 2014

by Richard Thieme,

Summary : 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
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
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 response of an intelligence analyst at NSA 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 and throws into
relief everything else you hear – whether from the platform or in the
hallways – inside this conference. And out there in the “real
“Nothing is what it seems