ARTWORK > Secret Codewords of the NSA

Woodblock print of man panning for gold by artist illustrator Annie Bissett illustrating a secret code word of the NSA called klondike
Japanese woodblock (mokuhanga)
6" x 6" (15.24 x 15.24 cm)

Klondike is "a control system for sensitive geospatial intelligence." 'Control system' refers to a type of intelligence known as sensitive compartmented information (SCI), a type of security clearance that is even higher than Top Secret clearance.

The word Klondike also refers to the Klondike region of the Yukon in northwest Canada and Alaska where a gold rush occurred in the 1890s. I thought that the image of a prospector panning for gold was an apt metaphor for sifting through large amounts of data looking for special nuggets.

And who can blame the NSA for wanting to sift through all that juicy data? Most of us do it to some extent, searching out old friends or enemies on Facebook, or Googling a prospective date or a new colleague. Are we looking at secret stuff, or just looking at what's there to look at?

As I was working on this print, I read an article asserting that stores are now tracking smartphone signals in malls to follow customers' movements. It's not just the government that wants to find those valuable nuggets in the river of data. Every good capitalist wants it, too.

Six applications of color, with blind emboss
Kochi Kozo paper
edition: 20