Open secret

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An open secret is a concept or idea that is "officially" ( de jure ) secret or restricted in knowledge, but in practice ( de facto ) is widely known; or it refers to something that is widely known to be true but which none of the people most intimately concerned are willing to categorically acknowledge in public.[ citation needed ]


Government and military

Area 51 Groom Road gate Area51 gate.JPG
Area 51 Groom Road gate

One famous "open secret" is that of Area 51, a United States military base containing an aircraft testing facility. [1] The U.S. Government did not explicitly affirm the existence of any military facility near Groom Lake, Lincoln County, Nevada, until 2013, when the CIA released documents revealing that the site was established to test spy planes. [2] While the general location of the base is now officially acknowledged, the base does not appear on government maps or in declassified satellite photography. [3] Yet despite this, the base was demonstrably and widely acknowledged to exist for many years before the CIA officially confirmed its existence. [4] [5] The immense secrecy has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to UFO folklore. [6]

Likewise, Delta Force can be considered an open secret, since its existence has been denied in the past by the United States Government.

The National Security Agency was formally established by President Truman in a memorandum of 24 October 1952, that revised National Security Council Intelligence Directive (NSCID) 9. [7] Since President Truman's memo was a classified document, [7] the existence of the NSA was not known to the public at that time. Due to its ultra-secrecy the U.S. intelligence community referred to the NSA as "No Such Agency". [8]

Camp Mirage is the codename for a former Canadian Forces forward logistics facility located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The facility was established in late December 2001 and, though not officially acknowledged by the Canadian Forces, was considered an open secret. [9]

The existence of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) was widely known for several decades before the government's official acknowledgement of the organisation in 1994. [10] Its Australian counterpart, ASIS, was the subject of a newspaper exposé years before its existence was officially acknowledged.

Israel is widely acknowledged to possess nuclear weapons. [11] This can be considered an open secret, because the Israeli government has never explicitly stated whether or not it possesses a nuclear stockpile, officially maintaining a policy of deliberate ambiguity. [12] [13] [14] [15]

Post Office Tower was completed in 1964 and information about it was designated an official secret, due to its importance to the national communications network. In 1978, the journalist Duncan Campbell was tried for collecting information about secret locations, and during the trial the judge ordered that the sites could not be identified by name; the Post Office Tower could only be referred to as 'Location 23'. [16] It was officially revealed by Kate Hoey under parliamentary privilege in 1993, despite being a 177-metre (581 ft) tall structure in the middle of central London. [17] [18]

It is often said that the tower did not appear on Ordnance Survey maps, despite being a 177-metre (581 ft) tall structure in the middle of central London that was open to the public for about 15 years. [18] However, this is incorrect; the 1:25,000 (published 1971) and 1:10,000 (published 1981) Ordnance Survey maps show the tower. [19] It is also shown in the London A–Z street atlas from 1984. [20]


Kayfabe, or the presentation of professional wrestling as "real" or unscripted, is an open secret, kept displayed as legitimate within the confines of wrestling programs but openly acknowledged as predetermined by wrestlers and promoters in the context of interviews for decades.

In television, the primary real-world identity of The Stig, a costumed and masked television test-driver used by BBC Television for Top Gear , was an open secret until the unofficial embargo was broken by a newspaper in 2009. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Area 51 U.S Air Force facility in southern Nevada, United States

Area 51 is the common name of a highly classified United States Air Force (USAF) facility within the Nevada Test and Training Range. A remote detachment administered by Edwards Air Force Base, the facility is officially called Homey Airport (XTA/KXTA) or Groom Lake. Details of its operations are not made public, but the USAF says that it is an open training range, and it is commonly thought to support the development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems. The USAF acquired the site in 1955, primarily for flight testing the Lockheed U-2 aircraft.

ECHELON Signals intelligence collection and analysis network

ECHELON, originally a secret government code name, is a surveillance program operated by the United States with the aid of four other signatory states to the UKUSA Security Agreement: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, also known as the Five Eyes.

National Security Agency U.S. signals intelligence organization

The National Security Agency (NSA) is a national-level intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense, under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The NSA is responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, specializing in a discipline known as signals intelligence (SIGINT). The NSA is also tasked with the protection of U.S. communications networks and information systems. The NSA relies on a variety of measures to accomplish its mission, the majority of which are clandestine. The existence of the NSA was not revealed until 1975. The NSA has roughly 32,000 employees.

Pine Gap Satellite station in the Northern Territory, Australia

Pine Gap is the commonly used name for a satellite surveillance base and Australian Earth station approximately 18 kilometres (11 mi) south-west of the town of Alice Springs, Northern Territory in the centre of Australia. It is jointly operated by Australia and the United States, and since 1988 it has been officially called the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap (JDFPG); previously, it was known as Joint Defence Space Research Facility.

Sandia Base was the principal nuclear weapons installation of the United States Department of Defense from 1946 to 1971. It was located on the southeastern edge of Albuquerque, New Mexico. For 25 years, the top-secret Sandia Base and its subsidiary installation, Manzano Base, carried on the atomic weapons research, development, design, testing, and training commenced by the Manhattan Project during World War II. Fabrication, assembly, and storage of nuclear weapons was also done at Sandia Base. The base played a key role in the United States nuclear deterrence capability during the Cold War. In 1971 it was merged into Kirtland Air Force Base.

UKUSA Agreement Multilateral treaty covering signals intelligence, secretly signed in 1946

The United Kingdom – United States of America Agreement is a multilateral agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The alliance of intelligence operations is also known as the Five Eyes. In classification markings this is abbreviated as FVEY, with the individual countries being abbreviated as AUS, CAN, NZL, GBR, and USA, respectively.

Natanz City in Isfahan, Iran

Natanz is a city and capital of Natanz County, Isfahan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 12,060, in 3,411 families. It is located 70 kilometres (43 mi) south-east of Kashan.

Operation Ivy Bells was a joint United States Navy, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and National Security Agency (NSA) mission whose objective was to place wire taps on Soviet underwater communication lines during the Cold War.

Israel–United States relations Bilateral relations

Since the 1960s, the United States has been a very strong supporter of Israel. It has played a key role in the promotion of good relations between Israel and its neighbouring Arab states—namely Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, along with several others in the 2020 Abraham Accords—while also holding off hostility from other Middle Eastern countries such as Syria and Iran. Relations with Israel are a very important factor in the U.S. government's overall foreign policy in the Middle East, and the U.S. Congress has likewise placed considerable importance on the maintenance of a close and supportive relationship.

Room 641A Telecommunication facility allegedly used for U.S. National Security Agency surveillance

Room 641A is a telecommunication interception facility operated by AT&T for the U.S. National Security Agency, as part of its warrantless surveillance program as authorized by the Patriot Act. The facility commenced operations in 2003 and its purpose was publicly revealed in 2006.

33 Thomas Street Skyscraper in Manhattan, New York, owned by AT&T

33 Thomas Street is a 550-foot-tall (170 m) windowless skyscraper in Tribeca, Lower Manhattan, New York City. It stands on the east side of Church Street, between Thomas Street and Worth Street. The building is an example of the Brutalist architectural style. It is a telephone exchange or wire center building which contained three major 4ESS switches used for interexchange telephony, as well as a number of other switches used for competitive local exchange carrier services. However, it is not used for incumbent local exchange carrier services, and is not a central office. The CLLI code for this facility is NYCMNYBW. The building has also been described as the likely location of a National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance hub codenamed TITANPOINTE.

Nuclear weapons and Israel Israels possible control of nuclear weapons

The State of Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons. Estimates of Israel's stockpile range between 80 and 400 nuclear warheads, and the country is believed to possess the ability to deliver them in several methods, including by aircraft, as submarine-launched cruise missiles, and via the Jericho series of intermediate to intercontinental range ballistic missiles. Its first deliverable nuclear weapon is thought to have been completed in late 1966 or early 1967; which would make it the sixth country in the world to have developed them.

Operation Outside the Box 2007 Israeli airstrike on a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria

Operation Outside the Box, also known as Operation Orchard, was an Israeli airstrike on a suspected nuclear reactor, referred to as the Al Kibar site, in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria, which occurred just after midnight on 6 September 2007. The Israeli and U.S. governments did not announce the secret raids for seven months. The White House and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) subsequently confirmed that American intelligence had also indicated the site was a nuclear facility with a military purpose, though Syria denies this. A 2009 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation reported evidence of uranium and graphite and concluded that the site bore features resembling an undeclared nuclear reactor. IAEA was initially unable to confirm or deny the nature of the site because, according to IAEA, Syria failed to provide necessary cooperation with the IAEA investigation. Syria has disputed these claims. Nearly four years later, in April 2011 during the Syrian Civil War, the IAEA officially confirmed that the site was a nuclear reactor. Israel did not acknowledge the attack until 2018.

Syria and weapons of mass destruction

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Nuclear facilities in Iran

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<i>Nuclear Secrets</i>

Nuclear Secrets, aka Spies, Lies and the Superbomb, is a 2007 BBC Television docudrama series which looks at the race for nuclear supremacy from the Manhattan Project through to Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.

Origins of global surveillance

The origins of global surveillance can be traced back to the late 1940s, when the UKUSA Agreement was jointly enacted by the United Kingdom and the United States, whose close cooperation eventually culminated in the creation of the global surveillance network, code-named "ECHELON", in 1971.

The United States is widely considered to have the most extensive and sophisticated intelligence network of any nation in the world, with organizations including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, amongst others. It has conducted numerous espionage operations against foreign countries, including both allies and rivals. This includes industrial espionage and cyber espionage. Through a combination of hacking and secret court orders against American technology companies, the United States has also employed mass surveillance of ordinary individuals, both American and foreign nationals alike.

Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) is an Iranian underground uranium enrichment facility located 20 miles (32 km) northeast of the Iranian city of Qom, near Fordow village, at a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps base. The site is under the control of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). It is the second Iranian uranium enrichment facility, the other one being that of Natanz. According to the Institute for Science and International Security, possible coordinates of the facility's location are: 34.88459°N 50.99596°E.

U.S. nuclear weapons in Japan

United States nuclear weapons were stored secretly at bases throughout Japan following World War II. Secret agreements between the two governments allowed nuclear weapons to remain in Japan until 1972, to move through Japanese territory, and for the return of the weapons in time of emergency.


  1. Dreamland: Fifty Years of Secret Flight Testing in Nevada By Peter W. Merlin
  2. Boyle, Alan (16 August 2013). "Area 51 and its purpose declassified: No UFOs, but lots of U-2 spy planes". NBC News . Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  3. USGS 1:24K/25K Topo map for location UTM 11 605181E 4124095N (NAD27) (map via
  4. Pike, John. "Area 51 Facility Overview", Federation of American Scientists.
  5. "Area 51 / Catch 22" segment, 60 Minutes broadcast 17 March 1996.
  6. Jacobsen, Annie (2012), Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base, Back Bay Books, ISBN   0316202304
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  16. Grant, Thomas (2015). Jeremy Hutchinson's Case Histories. John Murray. p. 315.
  17. "No title". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) . House of Commons. 19 February 1993. col. 634.
  18. 1 2 "London Telecom Tower, formerly BT Tower and Post Office Tower, Fitzrovia, West End, London". urban75. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
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  21. Foster, Patrick (19 January 2009). "Identity of Top Gear's The Stig revealed as Ben Collins". The Times . Retrieved 19 January 2009. The identity of the white-suited Stig ... has been an open secret within the motoring world for some years, with newspapers refraining from publishing his name, to uphold the spirit of the programme.