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Loose lips sink ships -- and break hearts

There is a world of secrets out there, and you have a few of your own, don't you? But you can't hide them all. One philosopher said a man can hide all secrets except two: that he is drunk or that he is in love.

I just read about a successful secret operation carried out five years ago. In September of 2007, Israeli agents quietly directed an attack that took out a Syrian nuclear facility that had not yet developed a nuclear weapon, but was getting close to "hot." They did it by never announcing they were spying on the operation, never talking about what they had found, and never telling (bragging) that they had wiped it out. The whole scheme was so quiet, the Syrians suffered no public defeat and no embarrassment. As a result, they never had to acknowledge what they had been cooking up.

Secrets are hard to keep. But it can be done. If you want somebody to keep your own personal secret, the best way is to keep it yourself.

In World War II, when General Eisenhower and the Allies were planning the big invasion on France on D-Day, the Nazis knew something was coming but they didn't know when, and they expected the big push would be at the narrowest point of the English Channel at Calais. Surprise, the Allies landed at Normandy, about 150 miles southwest of Calais, on June 6, 1944. The planning and movement of troops, ships and planes, had gone on for months -- how in the world did they keep it a secret? Deception and closed mouths. It couldn't be done today. But the secret was the key to the D-Day success.

Secrets are essential to good fiction. Whenever there's a secret, the plot thickens. Spies, secret agents (like 007), detectives, plots, military secrets, government secrets, stealth, secret missions, movements in the dark, intrigue, and love affairs -- all carried out in secret. The bigger the secret, the greater the suspense. And the greater the suspense, the greater the risk.

But some of the most dramatic stories aren't fiction. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were American citizens spying for the Soviet Union. They obtained classified atomic weapons information between 1946 and 1950 and passed the secrets on to the Russians. Other conspirators (unable to keep secrets) implicated the Rosenbergs and they were tried, found guilty of espionage and executed in 1953.

Everybody loves a secret. Kindergarten kids are whispering secrets as you read these words. But can they keep a secret? Of course, there is no age limit for not being able to keep a secret. Residents in nursing homes, bless them, are whispering secrets as you read these words.

Sometimes body language reveals that secrets are being told. I've seen it myself. I should have been working, but I was looking out the window. I was looking at a huge, nearly empty parking lot. Only one car was there, and two adults were standing beside it having a normal (from all appearances) conversation. Then, one of the two took a step closer to the other person, leaned forward, cupped her hand and whispered into the other's ear. They were alone -- nobody was within a 100 feet of either of them, but the gesture and the posture made it clear that a confidential statement, a secret, was being told. The meaning was so clear it was funny. If 500 people had seen a video of that scene, (without sound) 498 would have known exactly what was taking place.

Bullies love secrets -- somebody else's. That is, they love to tell them. The best way to fight off a bully is to tell him or her, "if you don't stop right now, I'm going to tell your secrets. You'll be sorry." Don't tell them which ones. You don't even have to know what their secrets are. We all have secrets we don't want known. They're known as skeletons in our closet. If the bullying doesn't stop, snoop until you find one of those secrets and tell it. What goes around can come around.

Not everybody tells secrets, but even those who keep them sometimes send signals that indicate something is under their hats. For example, a name is mentioned and the silent one just raises an eyebrow or maybe smirks. Raised eyebrows and smirks are dead giveaways. That's part of the drama of secrets.

Even with cell phones, texting, Facebook and Twitter, there still may be secrets. So here is the moral of the story: Keep a secret. Secrets are fun and exciting, but they can be hurtful and dangerous too. Loose lips sink ships -- and break hearts.