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yesh omrim

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“Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail”

7 October 2003

Nathan Newman argues that when you consider all the unsavory things that the CIA has done over the past fifty years, progressives shouldn’t care so much about the Bush Administration leaking the name of a CIA operative. John Quiggin follows this up by linking to an old essay of his.

A government, he says, can suppress its domestic opponents quite effectively with secret policecounterintelligence agencies, but when trying to root out secret information from other countries, it faces a paradox.

The basic lesson of game theory for a game of bluff like that of espionage is that, as long as it is possible for counterspies to generate misleading information most of the time, spies are useless even when their information happens to be correct. If the defence plays optimally, the spymaster can never have any reason to believe one piece of information produced by spies and disbelieve another.

Quiggin backs up the game theory by citing high-profile intelligence failures from World War II onward.