Secret Information is Not Secret

By | November 18, 2013

[November 18, 2013]  Leaders have trouble remembering that “secret” information is not truly secret, especially in this age of evolving communication’s technology.  If you tell someone about anything, put it in writing, or place it where it can be seen, it will eventually become public and no longer secret.

Secret-200x140Most people will remember US Representative Anthony Weiner D-NY, who sent a link to a sexually suggestive photograph of himself via his public Twitter account to an adult woman in 2011.  After several days of denying he had posted the image, Weiner admitted he had “exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.”  He later apologized for his earlier denials.1

My advice to those that work for me is to not write or post anything that they would not want to see on the front page of a major newspaper.  This is especially true of email.  Of course, there are some exceptions when operating on highly classified systems.

I remember secret briefings during the war in Iraq when the next day that very same information would be in the New York Times newspaper.

Why leaders so often invoke secrecy in the first place should be questioned.  In the military for example, we over-classify information all the time – slapping a “secret” label on information that should not be secret.  This creates a problem because we must then protect that information through expensive and time-intensive methods.

Leaders cannot seem to understand that posting to social media (blogs, social networking, media sharing, social email, podcasts, etc.) is very risky.  The information will be instantly in the public domain and can easily get into the wrong hands.  While beyond the scope of this post, it is rather easy and legal to get access to most social media posts.

For leaders, simply think about what you are trying to do.  Communication should be used to only transmit information to help your organization and those associated with your organization.  Stay away from that which does not do this.


[1] The Wikipedia link can be found at



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.