“He that would keep a secret must keep it secret that he hath a secret to keep,” says Sir Humphrey Appleby, permanent secretary to the Department of Administrative Affairs, a fictitious branch of the British government. He is one of the main characters in the highly acclaimed 1980s BBC television series “Yes Minister” and its equally phenomenal sequel, “Yes Prime Minister.” Sir Humphrey’s axiom would surely be readily shared by current real-life Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he bulldozes his bill for the protection of special official secrets through parliament.
The bill would meet with Sir Humphrey’s high approval not least because it keeps secret what secrets it deems especially secret. People who supposedly violate the regulations set down by the legislation would never be sure what secret it was that they failed to keep secret. Civil servants would become even more secretive than they already are because they fear a potential 10-year imprisonment for divulging secrets whose degree of secrecy they are secretly never quite sure of. Their unwritten code of secret conduct would ultimately be: “When in doubt, keep secret.”
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