Almost everything is secret in Iraq today, including the rain.
Weather forecasts are not reported on the grounds they could be helpful to the U.S.-led multinational force in Saudi Arabia. It was the same during the 1980-88 war with Iran.Telephone directories, never exactly widely distributed, are now highly prized because they too are restricted.
You can't buy a street map of Baghdad a city of 4.5 million people, because they could help enemy agents find their way around on sabotage missions.
Importing typewriters - if you can get around the U.N. embargo - is banned because the Iraqis consider they can be used for subversive purposes.
Saddam Hussein, a lifelong conspirator, knows that well. He used to hammer out propaganda tracts in his younger days when he was underground with the Baath Arab Socialist Party, which was outlawed at the time.
To import a typewriter means going through the time-consuming process of getting a security police permit, which are about as rare as gold dust.
Residents can't even get a duplicate key of their apartment made without permission from local authorities.
Stationary stores with photocopying machines display a list of items people can't copy - personal identification documents, military papers, military identification cards, school examination questions and passports.
Getting an entry visa to Iraq was difficult even during the best of times. These days it's even harder. But getting out can be even more problematic, as the hundreds of Western hostages held in Iraq well know.
No one can leave the country unless they have an exit visa, possibly the most prized possession in Iraq today.
At the airport, travel papers and passports are scrutinized at five different points by stern-faced secret police agents and immigration officials.
On the Iraqi Airways flight to Amman in neighboring Jordan, a half-dozen armed sky marshals constantly give passengers the once-over.
The Iraqi authorities are obsessive about security and secrecy. Wiretapping is pervasive. Hotel rooms are bugged. People talk in whispers when they discuss politics or the Persian Gulf crisis.
It is an accepted fact that foreigners' telephones are tapped. Lines are disconnected if people talk in a language the eavesdroppers don't understand.
When a reporter called his home in India and started speaking in Bengali with his wife, the line went dead. There are no Bengali interpreters in Baghdad.
On Fridays, the Moslem Sabbath, international calls are restricted to 10 minutes because there are not enough people to tap all the calls.
Iraqis are encouraged to spy on each other. Schoolchildren are even urged to tell what their parents say at home.
As Iraqis tell it, two officials spotted each other dining with Western reporters in one of the fish restaurants along the banks of the Tigris River that flows through Baghdad.
Both dutifully reported the fact to the Al-Amn, the secret police. Both were promptly transferred to remote towns.