Who Benefits?

10 Oct

In the wake of leaks from Edward Snowden the new head of MI5 has complained that British security has been compromised. He claims at least one major incident a year might occur because of this. The Guardian newspaper published part of Snowden’s leaked details and has become the target of various elements of the more right wing press. I would say that it is important to have some idea about what is being done in our name. That is not to say that there are no real threats; that would be putting my head in the sand. There are real threats from credible organisations out there. From studying history I know that one of the first tests you apply to any text is to ask what benefit the author of the text would gain from its production. For a government funded agency there is an obvious benefit to obtaining work and money. The bigger the department, the more prestigious the appointment as the head of that department is. That is a rule of the civil service.

Throughout its history the internal intelligence service, MI5, has spied on people within Britain, either citizens or residents. It is the nature of the beast that radicals of all sorts are the targets of surveillance. Overall, the targets tend to be more left wing than right, despite threats from extreme right wing groups being more of a danger to British society than the moderate left wing groups which are commonly targeted. These days the main threat is seen to come from radical Islamists. I would argue that, with their desire to impose the most draconian of socially conservative control, these groups are more right wing than left. They are certainly not remotely liberal or socialist. So I ought to be happy about surveillance. The problem is that Islamist does not equate to Islamic. The vast majority of Moslems are reasonable and socially responsible, in the true light of their faith. The suicide bombers and their ilk are politically, not religiously motivated.

It is perfectly reasonable for MI5 to target these Islamist groups. It is an infringement of our rights that we can all be spied on without due cause and with no recourse to the results of any investigations. What Edward Snowden demonstrated was that the watchdogs we have appointed now possess the ability to spy on us all, and most of us were unaware of what was going on. There is little control of what is being done. We are told we have to trust in the decisions made. That sounds like social control.

From the foundation of SIS in 1909 the security agencies have been checking up on us. The first head of what was to become MI5 was Vernon Kell. He had some very dubious sources of information, notably Arthur Maundy Gregory. You can look up articles on them on The Web.

My own first novel, ‘Most Secret’, includes details of Gregory, Kell and various other people. It is the result of a good deal of research. Much is fictionalised, but I have included a good deal that is historically verifiable and some other real life people. Look out for Dorothy Levitt, who was known as ‘the fastest girl in the world’ and invented the rear-view mirror! But enough of being serious, it is meant to be an entertainment. The second volume, ‘Down in the Flood’, is due out very shortly.

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2 Responses to “Who Benefits?”

  1. haonowshaokao October 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    On this topic – not sure if I sent this to you already, but it’s a good read anyway – http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/BUGGER

  2. chelonist October 10, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks, I really enjoyed that. I have always been a proponent of the cock-up theory of history, and that seems to follow on very well. The service has failed to spot almost all spies operating here and has recruited a bunch of pillocks. The two parts of that sentence fit very well together. I especially like the idea of Daily Mirror readers being regarded as dangerous subversives.
    There was a statement by the deputy editor* of The Mail saying that the publication of a non-story about Ralph Miliband being anti-British was justified because of something he said in a diary entry when he was seventeen (and showing a picture of his grave). No, the real enemy are the publishers of untruths like The Mail.

    *The editor, Paul Dacre believes in character assassination, but never gives interviews.

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