This essay revisits the saga of Cold War era stealth development programs—classified but curiously public efforts to build airplanes that eluded radar detection—to explore how leaks work and the work leaks do when designing complex technical systems. Stealth programs are aging examples of an increasingly visible phenomenon: disclosures about large, closely guarded design, manufacturing, and administrative efforts before their official unveiling. Rather than simply policing the boundary between the secret and the public, in “big” design, in collective efforts to produce knowledge and things at scale, the article argues that leaks have a more subtle purpose: they help govern the uncertain terrain between knowing and knowing enough.

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