29 Sep 2016

Secret services open or closed?

Secret Services are out in the open, really?

The openness about their existence and leadership, but not about the activities of their thousands of staff, is rather rubbing the public’s nose in the fact that there are things we are forbidden to know, and forbidden to know about people whose salaries we pay.

In contrast, the previous policy of keeping the organisations as well as their activities secret shows a certain delicacy, even a fitting shame that such a recourse should be necessary in an ostensibly free country.
This shame is understandable in the context of the cold war, when the Soviet bloc countries over which the west, with considerable justification, asserted its moral superiority, kept so much secret from their own peoples.

In the free world, secrecy smacked of tyranny. It alarmed people so, ironically, the scale of it was best kept under wraps.


Nowadays, however, our security services want us to be alarmed. They want it because it will make us feel we need them, and this is the bigger problem with the current openness.

The Soviet Union gave spies an indisputable raison d’ĂȘtre. Since its fall, they’ve felt the need to justify their existence. Obviously, before you can justify your existence, you have to admit it – but that was just the first step.

The government proudly letting it be known, at a time of considerable national austerity, that thousands more security officers are to be employed shows how successful that self-justification has been.

The widely reported terrorist threat, the stories of “near misses” and “heightened terror alerts”, and the announcement of more investment to “keep us safe” create, from the security services’ point of view, a virtuous circle of increasing funding.

Modern espionage is about what they’re seen to do, when it used to be the opposite.
(Is this becoming my sort of job after all)

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