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Topaz, Orion, Nemesis, Raven, Intruder. They sound like code names and they are. But the US spy satellites that they refer to – revealed as part of a leak by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden – were never much of a secret.

On 29 August, The Washington Post published a redacted version of the US Director of National Intelligence’s $52.6 billion budget justification for 2013, leaked by Snowden. It says such satellites were key in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden – and reveals the names for a bunch of them.

But Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says enthusiasts, who track satellites with ground telescopes, already knew these ones existed, just not their names. “If you put a bright thing in the night sky, you can declare that it’s a secret all you like, but people can still look up and see it,” says McDowell. [1]

What difference does it make whether we are aware of us knowing something?

Does it matter not to know that you know?

How many secrets do we now “know” without knowing…?


I don’t know what to say!

Or… do I?