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Letters  

Cloak and dagger saga

When I was younger, so much younger than today — and about 15 years before John Lennon used those exact words in an iconic Beatles song — there were huge espionage scandals in the U.K.

In 1951 Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean disappeared after working in top jobs at the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the Foreign Office and embassies around the world; they had escaped to Moscow to spend the rest of their lives.

Years later it became known that they were part of a group of upper-crust students at Cambridge University recruited as Soviet spies before the Second World War. Another recruit was Kim Philby who resigned his position at the Foreign Office in 1951, was reinstated after an investigation, but also defected to Moscow in 1963.

History is full of shady characters, willing to betray their own country's top secrets, and the Cold War years spawned many thrilling books and movies by authors like Len Deighton, John Le Carre’ and others depicting famous fictional spies. Most famous was MI6 Agent 007 James Bond, created by Ian Fleming, a former Royal Navy Intelligence Officer who lived in Jamaica. Ocho Rios International Airport is named after him.

These thoughts flooded my mind when the latest espionage news broke last week, but this true-life cloak and dagger routine seemed far less romantic or intriguing, and a lot more risible and ridiculous.

A very youthful-looking 21 year-old low-ranking member of the Massachusetts National Guard named Jack Teixeira was charged with publishing highly classified material on an internet chat room called Discord for teenage members of a group named “Thug Shakers Central”. Not even Ian Fleming could make this stuff up, as the US government has massive amounts of egg on its face once again, with sensitive information relating to behind-the-scenes opinions and assessments of international allies.

The biggest question is how a “weekend warrior”, who may do active service a few times a month, could possibly have security clearances for information designated for the joint Chiefs Of Staff at the Pentagon. In 2009 U.S. Army hacker Private Bradley Manning gave Wikipedia multitudes of files that eventually changed the course of the Iraq War.

That story became more intriguing when the hacker was tried and jailed, to immediately begin transitioning to a woman. Eventually Chelsea Manning was pardoned by President Obama, but the Wikipedia Editor remains in a British jail awaiting extradition to the U.S.. A decade ago Edward Snowden leaked massive amounts of files from the National Security Agency before defecting to Russia. No doubt many surprises will be forthcoming in the latest cloak and dagger saga.

Bernie Smith



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