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Cone of Silence

The term “cone of silence” refers to a situation or environment where sensitive information is strictly safeguarded from unauthorized individuals, including the media and sometimes even other members of the same organization.

The term is often invoked when discussing matters of national security, high-level negotiations, or internal deliberations where a leak could have significant repercussions.

Although the concept is vital for preserving the integrity of sensitive operations, it can also be a subject of scrutiny, particularly when it’s perceived as veiling issues that may warrant public transparency or accountability.

More on “Cone of Silence”

A withholding of news or other information. It’s perhaps the most memorable contribution to public discourse from the 1960s TV comedy Get Smart.

That show (later made into a movie starring Steve Carell) was about a bumbling spy who sometimes conversed with his boss in a glass enclosure completely covering their heads. The cone was intended for secrecy, but the two men could never actually hear each other.

National Journal in April 2015 noted the dilemma facing GOP strategist Mike Murphy just before Jeb Bush announced his candidacy: “To work for Bush, which would allow [Murphy] to orchestrate the campaign’s major strategic initiatives, while likely spending significantly less money; or to operate in a cone of silence at Bush’s Right to Rise super PAC, which has spent months raising unprecedented sums of money and is expected to have banked nearly $100 million by the time Bush enters the race.”

President Obama does have a cone of silence, but it’s more like a tent of silence. The New York Times reported in 2013 that when Obama travels, his staff takes along a security tent with opaque sides and noise-making devices that enable him to read classified documents or have sensitive conversations.

From Doubletalk © 2016 Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark.

Use of “Cone of Silence” in a sentence

  • As the Senate Intelligence Committee began its closed-door hearings, a proverbial cone of silence descended, leaving reporters and the public speculating about the proceedings within.
  • The White House enforced a strict cone of silence around the ongoing trade negotiations, raising concerns among some lawmakers who felt they were being kept in the dark.
  • When a scandal broke implicating several high-ranking officials, insiders noted that the cone of silence around the investigation was so tight that even most cabinet members were left guessing about the details.