The day before yesterday, a heard from colleague Y that a certain internationally well-known guru of postmodern literature, shall we call him Professor Smith, is likely to be the opponent when I defend my dissertation in public next year. The info, I understand, originally came from Z, who is in charge of the selection. What you might call a report from a reliable source.
Yesterday, I had a meeting with Z. He had received an initial positive response from someone, a professor X, whose name he preferred not to mention. He is waiting for final confirmation now. Both of us knew that X is Professor Smith, but Z didn't know that I knew, and I did not reveal the "leak". Earlier, we had agreed that everything will be done by the book: that I should have nothing to do with the process.
This morning, I talked to W, the leading professor in the department. He immediately said that Professor Smith may well become my opponent and asked my opinion on the choice. I told him what I thought and also mentioned in passing that I had heard about this but Z did not want me to know yet. Amused, W said he was glad he was not the first one to leak it. I understood that the information had probably spread well beyond W, Y, and Z. Whoever said that those whom an issue concerns are usually the last to hear about it?
I understand it is not my job to speculate on names, and despite some common and understandable practices that compromise the principle, it is best that the doctoral candidate plays no role in the selection of the opponent. One just has to trust the expertise of others. So this caution does not bother me at all; I only hate secrecy when it serves no honest purpose, when it is a form of pretension (disguised as tact) or arrogance. Of course, it helps that this time the secret got out.