This article examines a set of rhetorical devices forming a linguistic practice that are used repeatedly by secret keepers in the United States and the United Kingdom when legally and popularly arguing against the disclosure of state secrets. Each of these devices (using lists, using the future conditional, arguing from ignorance and authority, arguing from consequences, and arguing by analogy) play a role in shaping our social understanding of state secrecy. More importantly, these devices provide secret keepers a means by which to assert their knowledge and expertise, and to legitimize, if judges agree with them, the nondisclosure of state secrets. Once they have been created and have become commonly known to secret keepers, and validated by the judiciary through court precedents, they can be reproduced and passed on from a generation to the next. This article documents the use of these devices and their interrelationships.
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Lefebvre, Stephane. 2021. "The Rhetorical Devices of the Keepers of State Secrets." Secrecy and Society 2(2). https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/secrecyandsociety/vol2/iss2/6