The trouble with living in a democracy is that people think that they are free to do as they please. Which is sort of true…….just not when it comes to the intelligence service. We have spent our whole existence below the radar. Millions sleep comfortably in their beds because in the shadows, there are highly dedicated individuals keeping the bad men at bay. Not the ones who’ll steal your car in the middle of the night, the one that tries to steal biological weapons and ruin your entire day.
Between you and I, M.I.18 actually likes being in the shadows, it’s sort of in our job description, the secret service, as in we keep things secret. Thankfully, it’s only a few of the brighter the politicians that have the faintest clue to what we do, but not all. Generation after generation of public school types have gone into politics, they don’t seem to be able to function very well in the real world, and it’s always easier to hoodwink someone who can’t get a proper job.
The real problem with democracy is the press. A crusading journalist or editor can be a real pain. For some reason they aren’t keen on the whole concept of a secret intelligence service. Freedom and openness are the current buzzwords, like that ever stopped a suitcase nuke, if they kept to investigating philandering politicians or corrupt businessmen then all would be fine. The problem is they start poking around into things we’d rather they didn’t.
Every now and then we have to close them down entirely. For this we have the defence, press and broadcasting advisory committee, or DPBAC for short, who slap a Defence advisory notice (D- notice) on any story deemed not in the national interest. The editor’s will usually do their patriotic duty, pull the story and that’s that; everyone goes home happy, everyone except the journalists that is.
Technically speaking these aren’t legally enforceable and only cover print and press related web sites. One could argue that in the digital age they are redundant, but when you want your secrets kept in the dark, it’s best to turn off every light you can.
Politicians in their wisdom have thought it best to define what this covers…….there’s that openness we all love so much….. We are currently working under Defence and Security Media Advisory Notices, sub section 3, military counter terrorist force, intelligence operations, activities and communication methods and techniques. There….that’s so much clearer isn’t it.
And before everyone starts screaming freedom of the press, I remind you that no one has to comply with these advisory notices. It’s how you deliver them that tends to get results. Dropping them on the editors desk is good, having a trooper hand-deliver them at four in the morning, at the foot of their bed better………We like to be subtle wherever possible.
The other issue we have is, the damned freedom of information act, this doesn’t really cover us, or anything we deem a Crown operation .i.e. operations for the security of the state. This is an antiquated colonial term used to cover the activities of a myriad of private companies who acted as representatives of the Crown throughout the empire. And as is the case with a number of colonial laws, no one has bothered to repeal it, which sort of gives us a blanket – mind your own business- statement to give out when anyone tries to use the freedom act against us.
What you have to be careful of is some clever so and so, piecing together the small pieces of government admin to get the bigger picture. We have a number of individuals who are excellent at this. They didn’t start out working for us, we just stumbled across them via freedom of information requests. Alan was working for local government at the time, and had submitted a request for information regarding the number of packets of biscuits purchased by the canteen. Odd, but not the most unusual we’ve had. His second request was for the number of pens we used annually, and the third for staplers.
Now, you may be thinking so what? Well, it turns out that his supervisor had implemented a budget cut, stopping certain luxuries, e.g. biscuits in the staff room. Alan produced a report detailing the consumption, based on staffing levels of baked consumables within government departments, our departments. He had accurately predicted the location, numbers of staff and based on snack habits, the working hours of nearly all of our operations. Clearly this individual couldn’t be left free to roam unchecked, better to bring him in house. And all it took was a cast iron guarantee, from the Chief himself no less, that he could have a more or less unlimited supply of Hob nobs.
Actually, come to think of it, the freedom of information act, is quite a good recruiting tool……biscuit anyone ?