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Peter Wright’s book about MI5, Spycatcher, gives a pretty clear idea of how this game was conducted a generation ago by the British counter-intelligence apparatus. It is obvious from his descriptions, that during his time there—until the 1970s—they had a quite limited strength. The number of people they were able to follow in London’s streets was limited, and they had personal files on about two million Britons. The technological equipment looks ridiculous judged from the cellular, digital beginning of the 21st century. Nowadays, there is a file on each citizen.
Due to budget limitations they were barely able to track the Soviet activities on British soil. MI5 didn’t bother British citizens on a daily basis. In the whole book, I found only one account of their ruining the life of an innocent civilian; though he may not have reported other incidents. However, secret services personnel use secrecy as a tool to cover-up their own errors and probably there were many similar cases. Back then, the thought of compensating the damaged man, who needed to leave his town due to rumors created by the counter-intelligence people, did not cross the mind of Peter Wright’s organization. Drunk with their endless powers, they just did not care.
The Soviet era was a relatively innocent one. Then two things happened almost in parallel. The Soviet empire collapsed, more due to its rotten structure than to the Star Wars Project, and the espionage and counter-intelligence machineries found themselves obsolete. They needed a new enemy, and a better one, that could not—by definition—be defeated. Being powerful people in mighty organizations with vast resources, they began fighting for their future and pensions. Slowly, the word “terror” became an integral part of the daily news; undefined “terrorists” were a handy opponent. In parallel, an informatics revolution took place. Much more of our private lives became accessible to the intelligence world: credit cards, cellular phones and the Internet shone light into formerly obscure corners of our lives. All this data could be manipulated—“cooked” as Yitzhak Rabin loved to say—and every citizen could find himself blamed of anything.
In an irony of history, the secret services used their near downfall into oblivion to catapult themselves into a position almost as strong as the one described in George Orwell’s 1984. That was achieved by using a combination of two false claims to gain the hearts of the politicians in charge of their cherished budgets. The claims weren’t new. Yet, this time they were skillfully used to create an unprecedented effect of almost global scale.
The first claim has been heard even from the mouths of top politicians. It says: “If you are not with us, you are against us.” In Israel, if you are not Zionist, then you belong to the Enemy from Within. For he that is not against us is on our part, said Jesus in Mark 9:40 to His disciples. That is the exact opposite. Does that mean that since the Bible teaches the opposite, then the Bible is an enemy? Should someone reading Mark aloud go to jail?
The second claim includes two false clauses and roughly says: “If it is permissible to use all means against a foe, then it is also permissible to use them against an enemy from within.” In more than one aspect, this was the exact reasoning of Nazi Germany; yet, this is the ideology that has brought the massive infringements of human rights by most governments, especially those regarding our privacy. In the new technological reality, the security services gained access to all the media mentioned above. Next time you pay with a credit card in the supermarket think whether you want the government to know which brand of coffee you prefer. Next time you leave home, think if you want the cellular phone company to know your location at all times, or if you can be sure they won’t secretly activate the machine’s microphone during your business meeting. This is the Internet of Things.
The most dangerous method of data acquisition we confront relies on informants. I am not referring to regular watchers – static, semi-static or mobile. These are well described in Spycatcher and INSIDE THE COMPANY: CIA DIARY and of relatively low consequences, unless you are being actively persecuted as I am. Counter-intelligence organizations have developed massive networks of moles, the type we are all familiar with from the Cold War era, for example, Kim Philby, a Soviet mole within the British MI6. These people lead an almost-regular life, but actively collect information for the security services. They aren’t professional watchers. They aren’t lay informants running up and down the streets. They aren’t Kim Philby; despite the similarity in their roles.
Modern moles work within their countries and societies; they are thus much cheaper to maintain, and easier to hide, than moles abroad. Since they are also easy to train, their numbers make up for their low quality. Instead of creating one Kim Philby, surrounded by a small ring of equally highly trained, supporting team players, nowadays the security services place hundreds of cheaper, small rings; each one handling a single aspect of a much more complex operation. This fractioning of activities complicates their detection; nonetheless, they all share the same training and use the same techniques. After seeing them a few times they are easy to identify, and their activities can hence be thwarted.
Since these new activities were of a domestic nature, they naturally fell under the counter-intelligence organizations wings. The process was further accelerated after the 9/11 event. Since then, security services of most countries began cooperating on an unprecedented scale, creating a de facto almost global security service. That was accomplished without the consent of the people in any of the involved countries.
It is crucial to comprehend that these immoral activities are conducted for the benefit of the oligarchs. In Israel, these people enjoy a constant and active support by the Israeli security services, while my open criticism of the existing system, which is legal by any definition of the word, has been called by several moles “preying on the innocent.” Wasn’t their ruining my life exactly that?
There are two actions I recommend taking to neutralize these activities. The first is to clog the counter-intelligence machinery with contradictory information. This is easy to accomplish. Afterwards, it is devilishly difficult for them to locate the relevant data. Spend equal amounts of time at Democrat and Republican websites. In addition, check your relations on a regular basis. Tell your friends slightly different versions of some event that may interest the security services (like your visit to the Republican website), and then wait for reactions. To friend A, say you are impressed with candidate B; tell a friend C that candidate D has fascinating views. Don’t touch the topic with anyone else and keep quiet for a while. There are several versions of what may happen next. If someone, who you may know well or see for the first time in your life, approaches you with an issue related to candidate B, then your friend A is spreading around information about you. He may belong to the security services, and a more careful test should be applied. In any case, he should not be trusted with sensitive information.
Following this line of action, it is crucial either to avoid routines or to develop meaningless ones. The latter must be subtle. For example, you could make a point of drinking a daily coffee at the same place. Most probably, such a place would be used in the event the security services want to make an unobtrusive contact. This is because it would have an easy access. Your routine would allow careful planning, and they know you like the place. Hence you would be happy and relaxed while there; that is their favorite condition for conducting an unsuspected interrogation. But this time you are setting the trap; for you, in such a location there are no casual encounters and that is what you should keep in mind.
The final action is subtler. Each time I identify a mole, I begin a series of hints to let him or her know that I know. After this is understood by the surprised mole—most of them think themselves above detection—I begin a careful and complicated attempt to explain to them that they are serving the devil. Not even one of their justifications is worth mentioning. If I continue the contact with the mole, usually they are arrogant enough to believe they passed a strange test and that I consider them clean. This last choice is justified, because the best alternative is knowing who the informant is. In such a way, controlling the flow of information to the authorities is easy. Behave like this for a while and your true friends will begin to shine with the light of a thousand tropical summer suns. The blessing of true friendship is worth serious thought and effort.
These are scary days. Some basic things in our global village went awry; we are more defenseless than ever. The situation will not change unless we take responsibility and take an active role, even if it is as small as overflowing the boiling bowels of hell with disinformation.
This text was adapted from a chapter of the same name in The Cross of Bethlehem II: Back in Bethlehem.
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