Where States Lie: A Historical Sociological Investigation into the Art of Cover Storying in a Secret Cold War Intelligence Operation

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Luscombe, Alexander John




Secrecy and deception are integral components of ruling, yet remain under-researched and under-theorized sociologically. This thesis draws on two complimentary literatures with the goal of advancing a conceptual framework and agenda for the study of secrecy and deception in government: governmentality studies and dramaturgy. The usefulness of this framework is demonstrated by analyzing the cover storying practices of military officials in Cobra Mist, a secret radar intelligence station built in England in the late 1960s. Based on a theoretical understanding of cover storying, six interrelated themes are developed and substantiated empirically: i) scripting and rehearsing a suitable cover narrative; ii) going public via press release; iii) backstage struggles over cover storying and information leaks; iv) strategies for managing information leakage; v) secret site closure; and vi) the production of mystery. In conclusion this thesis reflects on the methodological limitations of research on government secrecy and offers four possible avenues for future research on cover storying.


Sociology - Organizational
Sociology - Theory and Methods




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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