Lies and secrets, per Clifford May

If Libby told Miller that Plame worked for the CIA, that burned her undercover identity. It matters not at all whether Libby told Miller, or knew himself, that her employment there was supposed to be a secret.

Now, class, I’m going to say this one more time, for the slow learners. (Yes, Mr. May, I’m looking at you. If you remain confused, you might consult with Mr. McCarthy, who seems to have no trouble grasping this simple point.)

If I know a secret about someone, and tell that secret to someone else, I’ve revealed that secret, even if I don’t mention that it was supposed to be a secret in the first place.

Let’s say, for example, that John is married to Jane but is secretly sleeping with Judy. If I say “John is sleeping with Judy,” it’s not a secret anymore. Whether I say “John is secretly sleeping with Judy” couldn’t matter less. It wasn’t the secrecy that was a secret, it was the sex.

Similarly, if Valerie Plame Wilson is an undercover CIA officer and someone publishes the fact that she works for the CIA, she’s been burned, whether the publication mentions her undercover status or not. There’s no second secret fact that she was undercover; her being undercover meant, precisely, that no one was supposed to know she worked for the CIA.

Yes, dammit, this will be on the exam.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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