Secret Communiques

Last night, over dinner with the National Security Advisor under President George W. Bush, Stephen Hadley, the topic of secrecy in communication came up.  It reminded me of the many manuscripts we have handled that were not meant to be seen publicly and the importance placed by leaders of the past in maintaining free and confidential line of communication. 

Herzl required it in communicating with his World Zionist Organization.

Lincoln required it in getting info from Ft. Sumter prior to becoming president.

FDR sought it in dealing with the British prior to American entry into WWII

Some presidents used this privilege to excess. James Knox Polk signed nearly every letter with the cautionary warning that the letter was private, not to be shared.

In some cases, such as the below piece we carried a few years ago, discretion ought to have been demanded but was not.  This is the original order to seize the Rosetta Stone from the British, now in the British Library.

Confidential memos went back and forth during our nation’s founding. These letters are written in code. Some of this code is without modern day legend and as such is illegible, even if the handwriting can be easily identified.

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