"Prior to that point, I believe that people kind of intuitively had adopted the principles of deception without realizing that what they were doing was essentially exactly what magicians do," Melton said.
The magician and the spy face different stakes -- one risks reputation, the other his life. And while the magician can control the stage, lighting and the audience's line of sight, the spy must work in an unpredictable environment, Melton said.
Still, he emphasized, both must plan a process of deception and misdirection to successfully execute a performance.
"The lesson of Mulholland is that events don't happen as single isolated events. ?They become part of a clandestine choreography that when successful allows the operation to take place without any awareness of surveillance or bystanders," he said. "Mulholland taught that the world is a stage and everywhere you perform you can prepare it so that there's more chance for success."
But the spy is unlike the magician in one more key way: He never gets to take his bow.
"When it's successful," Melton said. "Silence replaces applauses."