In the wake of all the loose talk about the bin Laden raid, a friend who is a veteran of U.S. intelligence work tells me of a counterintutive phenomenon in clandestine operations: The more sensitive a planned operation, the less secret it becomes. This, he explained, is because the more sensitive it is, the more senior officials have to be read in to the matter, lest someone feel left out and blindsided when the headlines burst around them. "We called it the law of inverse compartmentalization," he said.
Those little grasshoppers wishing to know more should read Stuart Herrington's classic treatise on counterintelligence operations , Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher's World.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.