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Take a Letter

Posted by Dirck on 14 November, 2013

I was recently reading an article about the various charms inherent to hand-written correspondences, which is probably not a surprising item of news.  I am, despite the testimony of some of my correspondents (one horribly neglected one, especially), a great fan of this form of interchange, and I’ve gone on at some length in previous entries to encourage others.  One thing, pointed out by the article, never really stuck me.

Letters are a secure mode of transmission.

It’s at once obvious and unexpected.  This whole uproar regarding the Snowden revelations (say, there’s a name for a Robert Ludlum novel) is founded on the discovery that secure communications aren’t, really.  Those communications are electronic, of course, which means that the security comes from encryption rather than inaccessibility; Angela Merkel’s cell phone, for example, is yelling at the top of its electric lungs every time she makes a call, and it’s just the fact that it’s screeching gibberish to most receivers that makes it a secure(ish) mode of talking to some one.

Letters, though… they’re discrete.  Folded up in an envelope and exposed to a limited number of people (writer, a small relay of postal workers, reader), it takes a serious effort to get a look at someone’s letter in transit.  The bonanza of data Snowden has revealed is all the bounty of the NSA pursuing what is possible, and while world leaders are rightly up in arms about having their conversations and emails examined by unexpected auditors you don’t find anyone shouting about “And they read the postcard I sent Aunty Gladys!”

If, therefore, you’re going to get up to no good, whether illegal or merely immoral, you’re probably better off sticking to the mails.  A little bit of care in keeping the letter covert between writing and posting, and you’re golden.  It may go astray, but it is unlikely to get into the wrong hands, as people lurking around the letterbox are obvious.  The person on the other end won’t accidentally forward it with a mere button push (“reply to all” takes a long time with mail).  Deleting an item of physical mail is extremely complete, if you’ve got a match, and if you want to keep it, as I’ve pointed out in the past, it’s proof against hard-drive failures, power surges, and EMP effects.  How much better can you hope for?

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Craftsman
Today’s ink: Waterman Washable Blue

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