July 08, 2005

Disclosing classified information, salva veritate

The Valerie Plame story is all about referential opacity and felicity conditions for speech acts and other issues in philosophy of language, it seems to me.

Here's one example among many. Michael Isikoff tells us that Karl Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin

told NEWSWEEK that Rove "never knowingly disclosed classified information" and that "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." Luskin declined, however, to discuss any other details.

As a non-philosopher blogger has observed,

"[H]e did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA", may be a perfect non-denial denial - did Rove say, for example, that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, but omit her name (which was available on the internet as part of Ambassador Wilson's on-line bio, now long gone)?

There's also the question of whether confirming a rumor is "disclosing" the information involved; and if you tell someone something that you think they should already know, have you "knowingly disclosed" it? Practically every information-bearing statement from everyone associated with the case requires this level of exactness in construal. But the philosophers are falling down on the job: we're not getting an analysis from Brian Weatherson or Brian Leiter or Matt Weiner or Kai von Fintel -- or anybody else with a union card in semantics or philosophy of language.

Posted by Mark Liberman at July 8, 2005 10:04 PM