Thursday, November 6, 2014

The spying business

I am somewhat puzzled by John Key's announcement that there are 40 would be Jihadists in New Zealand that the government has to keep an eye on. Surely it is the job of the GCSB, the Government Security Bureau, to keep an eye on any mischief makers that may be around, and they don't need the government to alert any who they are spying on. So what is John Key playing at? What is he hoping to achieve? Who is he trying to fool? Over the last few days I watched the wonderful BBC Worricker Trilogy. I don't remember when I enjoyed television so much. Although it is a sophisticated slow moving spy story, it makes some very important points about spying. Can spys be trusted? Whose interests do spies pursue? In this story it is clear that spies cannot, as a rule be trusted, unless they are ethical human beings who are engaged in by and large nefarious underhand work. The story has contemporary relevance. At issue is the use of torture to obtain information, something that the British Secret Service claim not to condone, yet it came to light that rogue elements within the service, with the approval; of the Prime Minister, are cooperating with Americans in the use of private security firms like Blackwater, now renamed Academi in getting just such information. And the reason for this is that these security firms are not accountable to anyone, make obscene profits, part of which is used for a kick-back to fund the Prime Ministers lifestyle as an international peace negotiator after his retirement from politics. The parallels between Tony Blair's history and the collusion of the British Intelligence Service with American corporations is fairly obvious. The other underlying theme of the series is that Johnny Worricker, the main protagonist of the story, is a Cambridge educated smartly turned out member of the social elite, with a charming, modest, self-deprecating half smile. A man, born to rule, a member of the middle upper crust is a man to be trusted, the implied social upstart, the Prime Minister has a dubious character and may be untrustworthy. Trust the old rulers, don't trust the pushy ambitious young bounders..