19 July 2005

Quis custodiet?

I just had (or rather, am having) an email discussion with some friends about the Plame affair and related issues; this is extracted from it.

I used to think that the US, with its open establishment at Langley, had a healthier approach than the UK whose equivalent organisations didn't legally exist at all and were funded through a secret budget. Recently I'm less sure. The Security Service in the UK is now much more open and accountable, lives in a building straight out of Trumpton, and is also approaching twice the size it was during the cold war. And I find myself asking: is this really better?
His work consisted largely of what the War Department called "intelligence," the sophisticates, "espionage," and the romanticists, "spy stuff." And, unfortunately, despite the frothy shrillness of the televisors, "intelligence," "espionage," and "spy stuff" are at best a sordid business of routine betrayal and bad faith. It is excused by society ... but ... society is much more easily soothed than one's own conscience ... (Asimov)
Is it better to have a society which feels comfortable wearing its "sordid business of routine betrayal and bad faith" (however necessary I freely admit it to be) on its sleeve rather than feeling the need to cover it up? Perhaps it is ... just ... but only just.

  1. Asimov, I. Foundation and Empire. first ed. 1952, New York: Gnome Press.
  2. or: Bantam hardcover ed. 2004, New York: Bantam Books. 0553803727

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