Georgy Flerov was a young nuclear physicist in the Soviet Union who ( in 1943) sent a letter to Stalin advocating an atomic bomb project. It is not clear that Stalin read that letter, but one of Flerov’s arguments was particularly interesting: he pointed out the abrupt and complete silence on the subject of nuclear fission in the scientific literature of the US, UK, and Germany – previously an extremely hot topic.
Stopping publications on atomic energy ( which happened in April 1940) was a voluntary effort by American and British physicists. But that cessation was itself a signal that something strategically important was going on.
Imagine another important discovery with important strategic implications: how would you maximize your advantage ?
Probably this is only practically possible if your side alone has made the discovery. If the US and the UK had continued publishing watered-down nuclear research, the paper stoppage in Germany would still have given away the game. But suppose, for the moment, that you have a monopoly on the information. Suddenly stopping closely related publications obviously doesn’t work. What do you do?
You have to continue publications, but they must stop being useful. You have to have the same names at the top ( an abrupt personnel switch would also be a giveaway) but the useful content must slide to zero. You could employ people that A. can sound like the previous real authors and B. are good at faking boring trash. Or, possibly, hire people who are genuinely mediocre and don’t have to fake it.
Maybe you can distract your rivals with a different, totally fake but extremely exciting semiplausible breakthrough.
Or – an accidental example of a very effective approach to suppression. Once upon a time, around 1940, some researchers began to suspect that duodenal ulcers were caused by a spiral bacterium. Some physicians were even using early antibiotics against them, which seemed to work. Others thought what they were seeing might be postmortem contamination. A famous pathologist offered to settle the issue.
He looked, didn’t see anything, and the hypothesis was buried for 40 years.
But he was wrong: he had used the wrong stains.
So, a new (?) intelligence tactic for hiding strategic breakthroughs: the magisterial review article.