Life In The Cone of Silence
by Jake Block
I spent 20 years in the military, working in a variety of positions requiring varying degrees of discretion regarding what I could, should or would share with other people. Much of the information that I was privy to in the completion of my duties could be Classified, Secret, and on occasion, Top Secret. There were things that I could get into trouble for disclosing, and could include everything from loss of rank, pay and up to some serious time in a military or federal prison. So, please understand that I took and take security and my obligations to others regarding matters that require my personal discretion quite seriously.
My wife spent 20 years in the military, working in a variety of positions requiring varying degrees of discretion regarding what she could, should or would share with other people. Much of the information that she was privy to in the completion of her duties could be Classified, Secret, and on occasion, Top Secret. There were things that she could get into trouble for disclosing, and could include everything from loss of rank, pay and up to some serious time in a military or federal prison.
In the years that we shared together when we were both in the military, we didn’t make a distinction between what we could, should or would share with others and what we could, should or would share between ourselves. Quite simply, unless we were on a need to know basis regarding matters of confidentiality in our military careers, the subject was off limits. Where was I going on TDY (Temporary Duty) next week? It could either be, “Just a quick trip to Scott AFB for a class,” or “Just working. See you when I get home.” Sometimes all I could tell her was that I was going “somewhere,” and that I would be out of touch.” If she didn’t need to know, I didn’t tell her.
Her job often entailed highly sensitive information, at a high level of intelligence security. I knew better than to ask what she was working on or who was going to be in her building. I had no need to know. Period. She didn’t tell me. Period. At one point in her career, she spent three years in a building and I only stepped into it once, and even though she was well known to everyone there, she had to come to the door to sign me in, and escort me directly to her office, where I did what I needed to do, and then directly back to the security guard, who quietly and efficiently checked me out. She and I then waved “goodbye,” and went back to work for the rest of the day.
During duty hours, we addressed each other as Sergeant, and were all business. We never kissed, even on the cheek, or held hands. We never discussed our off duty lives with people on duty. Need to know. It’s something that I take seriously.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There were times that I might share things that were going on with my troops or with my wife, and she might share with me as well. We could share laughs and stories and anecdotes about the funny, weird or dumbass things that someone might have done. You can be open and gregarious, have friends, talk and enjoy their company, but the trick is to know where and when it’s appropriate and when it’s not.
Civilian life is more of the same, although the price you might pay for divulging someone’s secrets seldom include prison, and we seldom sign non disclosure agreements. There are still times when discretion is expected and treasured between those who share a mutual respect. In business, there were many instances in which discretion was expected and required as a contractual agreement. One often hears the phrase, “My word is my bond,” in business, but true as that might be, the most honest business partners insure that discretion with a contractual agreement, no matter how much they might trust their partner in business.
So it goes in our social interactions, even on line where we speak openly of many things, seldom, if ever, taking stock of our correspondent’s veracity and discretion. Experiences differ, dependent upon the individuals involved, but there are sad tales galore about those whose loose lips spread things that others thought were spoken of in confidence to those who have no need to know. One unfortunate incident that I recall involved a member of an internet group who, upon learning a secret about a member, who was in a position of trust, and used it to exert control over that person, threatening disclosure to his employer. This secret involved the person’s membership in an occult organization whose philosophies would be at odds with the philosophies of the person’s employer. When things went south between the two individuals, the individual carried out his threats and calls were made to the man’s employer from a “concerned citizen.”
It’s a cautionary tale that we should take note of. Conversation is a good thing, education is even better, but in all things, remember discretion and honor in your dealings with others. You have a duty to others, as well as yourself.
It’s my honor to be a part of The Sect of the Horned God and to relate some of the “life lessons” that have helped form my personality and my style and bring me to this point in my life, and while I might pass on some significant details of episodes in my life and the impacts of lessons learned, there are things that I never have, and never will disclose. For instance, I have been asked about things regarding Anton LaVey, and The Church of Satan during the time I was active with them and, when possible, I’ve given my opinions and some anecdotes that might help someone understand. There are times, however, that when a question would require me to break my vow of confidentiality that I simply say, “I can’t answer that.” One person, who shall remain unnamed suggested to me that, “LaVey’s been dead for over 20 years… what does it matter now?”
What matters is that there was no termination date on my promise to say nothing about personal things I might know. I fully intend to take any “secrets” of that time with me into death. You see, it’s very much a part of my personal code of ethics that I am the kind of friend to others that I would wish that they would be to me. When I give them my word, I give them my bond and my bond is iron clad. It’s all about integrity. When someone honors our association and/or friendship with discretion, when we speak about things that are for our ears only, they are spoken of freely and with that mutual understanding.
There are things that I speak to those for whom I have the utmost respect, people like Thomas and Lisa and those in the Administrative level of The Sect, two people that are known to me “in real life,” and perhaps a few others on the web with whom I have had a long time relationship. I can speak to this group of people and be assured of their confidentiality, and they can be assured of mine. Unfortunately, there are also those both on the web and “in real life” that I wouldn’t trust “if their tongue was notarized.” With these people, I often hear “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” playing in my head, and specifically the line, “Believe half of what you see, Son, and none of what you hear.”
The internet and its all pervasive attitude that “it’s my right to know” might seem to be an all access pass to the most intimate parts of the lives of others, secrets of business and secrets of state, but it only seems to be. So, for most people, any really meaningful communication is strained and filtered until a level of trust, one for the other, is established. Even here, though, I expect and give my promise of discretion.
In dealing with the rest of the world around me, I employ my “cone of silence,” so that they’re not privy to my communications with my core group. In the old 1960s TV show, GET SMART, the hero, Maxwell Smart employed the cone of silence whenever he wanted secure communications with his trusted group. Made of a sound-dampening acrylic, it fit over his head and the head of his companion, so that they could speak without being heard by those who had no need to know. Those who matter understand.
No offense if I don’t tell you what you want to know, but there are reasons for it that you just might not understand. Some things might be revealed if, someday, you can be included in my short list of confidantes. Even then there is no such thing as total access, as I have commitments and trusts that you might not be a part of, just as my commitment and trust with you might be exclusionary to others. And trust me, it won’t bother me at all if there are parts of your life that I have no need to know. That’s how it should be. At one time or another, we’re all outside of the cone.