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In Dr. Strangelove a conversation happens between Russian Ambassador de Sadesky and U.S. President Muffley regarding the soviet doomsday machine:

Ambassador de Sadesky: The deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a doomsday gap.

President Muffley: This is preposterous! I never approved of anything like that!

Ambassador de Sadesky: Our source was The New York Times.

What's the meaning behind the ambassador's response here? Is he just implying that the Russians didn't even need to spy to know about the U.S. doomsday plans and that it was basic public knowledge or is there something more to understand here?

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It's explained in the Dr. Strangelove's explanation:

The whole point of the doomsday machine is lost if you keep it a secret

Then the General says

Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines

The whole joke is that you don't need to create such machine. You just must be capable of this and then tell that you have it. Hence NYT.

But the Russians didn't know this, they relied on NYT and not spies or other source, and they REALLY build such machine. Because it was so easy.

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At the time Dr. Strangelove was being made the New York Times (NYT) newspaper had an ad campaign with the slogan, "My source was the New York Times." The NYT's long standing habit of publicizing US government secrets (example: The Pentagon Papers) combined with the paper's advertising slogan was the inspiration for Ambassador de Sadesky's remark.

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