Thursday, March 30, 2006

2333 Typology of Leaks

I just can’t stop looking at what should be a snooze--a boring lexicon of government double-speak. But each paragraph unfolds one more strange and corrupt way to use the wonderful English language. I mentioned Susan Maret’s “On Their Own Terms: A Lexicon with an Emphasis on Information-Related Terms Produced by the U.S. Federal Government,” not really expecting that I’d go back to it again and again.

Maret is an adjunct Lecturer of Library Science at San Jose State University (most recent info I found on her), so this would be a librarian’s masterpiece of linking and sourcing. She’s really big into human rights and environmental issues, so I’m guessing she has amassed a large personal file for her other interests which led to this document. That always happened with my own publications, particularly on serials. One time I wrote two publications from the material I gathered for a third. *Maret has ten temporary, visiting and adjunct positions on her resume--even for leftie librarians that’s a lot in 15 years. In academe the left tend to eat their young. Also, since it is a .pdf and free on-line (i.e. about $50 to print and spiral bind it even if you've got flunky help and taxpayer ink and paper), I discovered that she must be updating the references (or making corrections?), because it was being hailed in various library blogs last fall, but I noticed a January 2006 hot link.

I found myself reading Dwight Eisenhower’s Executive Orders of 1953 that had superseded other EOs and were superseded by others! Wow. Is that too much time on my hands or what! At one point, I went from a DoD supply materiel dictionary to a word for word translation of it in Russian, and from that a whole other wonderful “slovar” but I didn’t bookmark it, so you’re on your own. And FBI Director Hoover issuing special directives on sensitive matters on pink paper. Whoa Nellie. In 1940. What could psychologists do with that?

I thought this “typology of leaks” on p. 200 (did I mention there are 346 pages?) was interesting--and since it is 22 years old, I’m sure it needs to be updated. I haven’t read the Hess book, and this is out of context, so I assume the author isn’t noting just press officers here. I’m guessing the “animus leak” is one of the more popular during this administration since career government employees seem to dislike Bush so much. Although the motives of Valerie Plame’s husband seemed definitely ego to me. Also, big leaks need to flow into the big bucket ears of a free press so bloggers have something to write about. Maybe these were all leaks-for-hire, but I'd make lucrative leaks a category, as well as loves-to-gossip leaks.

Source: Stephen Hess. The Government/Press Connection: Press Officers and their Offices. Washington, DC : Brookings Institution, 1984. 77-79;

  • Ego Leak: Giving information primarily to satisfy a sense of self.

  • Goodwill Leak: Information offered to “accumulate credit” as a play for a future favor.

  • Policy Leak: A straightforward pitch for or against a proposal using some document or insider information as the lure to get more attention than might be otherwise justified. The leak of the Pentagon Papers falls into this category.

  • Animus Leak: Used to settle grudges; information is released in order to cause embarrassment to another person.

  • Trial-Balloon Leak: Revealing a proposal that is under consideration in order to assess its assets and liabilities. Usually proponents have too much invested in a proposal to want to leave it to the vagaries of the press and public opinion. More likely, those who send up a trial balloon want to see it shot down, and because it is easier to generate opposition to almost anything than to build support, this is the most likely effect.

  • Whistleblower Leak: Usually used by career personnel; going to the press may be the last resort of frustrated civil servants who feel they cannot resolve their dispute through administrative channels. Hess is careful to point out that Whistleblowing is not synonymous with leaking.
Today's paper reported on Cynthia McKinney D-GA striking a police officer who stopped her going into the House of Representatives Building because he didn't recognize her. Here's either a paid snitch in the police department and/or a leak walking through the building who is just a gossip (not to be disloyal to my sex, but I'm guessing a woman staffer):

". . . according to a police official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident and spoke to AP on condition of anonimity. . ."

*Update: I've had an e-mail from the author who explained her resume. She was a seasoned librarian with 12 years in one position before her PhD and is now finding new opportunities to use her advanced degree; also loves the academic environment.

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