Mi6 shoots Russian NGOs in the foot
- From: alan@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Alan)
- Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 14:06 +0000 (GMT Standard Time)
MOSCOW. (Vladimir Simonov, RIA Novosti commentator). -- If the technical angel
"Q" who probably earned half the credit for Mr. Bond-James-Bond's incredible
professional and other victories ever existed, he must have been spinning in his
grave earlier this week with shame for his modern peers as news came about MI6
people caught with a malfunctioning spy gadget in a Moscow park.
Indeed, the transceiver rock found in a Moscow park was working too unsteadily
not to be uncovered - in Russian technical jargon, there is "either no contact
or too much of it." The videotape broadcast on Sunday on Rossia, a leading
national TV network, showed a British diplomat kicking the rock desperately,
trying to make it work - or maybe just for fun, let's give him the benefit of
the doubt. We might never know why he tried to carry it away, for repair or to
dispose, but one thing was clear, especially after an X-ray test: the rock must
definitely have had a "Warranty Void If Removed" or a "Make Sure This Product Is
Repaired by Licensed Technicians" label inside.
Four British spies have been caught red-handed - is it something people on one
side should celebrate, and their counterparts on the other lament or deny
vehemently? Hardly so, for many reasons.
What we can do is just state that for all the Russian and Western claims that we
are standing back to back in a global struggle against terror, neither side
seems to be looking at it as a reason to deprive the intelligence community of
their daily bread. Standing back to back is not the same as not looking for
skeletons in each other's cupboards. Probably to avoid any misunderstanding -
what else can be expected of officers and gentlemen? - MI6 has publicly
committed to that on its website: "The Secret Intelligence Service operates
world-wide to collect secret foreign intelligence in support of the British
Government's policies and objectives."
I don't think the Russian government will send me to a Siberian labor camp if I
acknowledge in public that this country is doing the same, globally and 24/7.
Tonight some Britons were caught in Moscow, tomorrow fortune might turn its back
on Russians elsewhere - after all, you don't complain when night comes after
day, right? For such are the rules of the world's second oldest profession
which, like it or not, will exist as long as there is demand for it.
Times are changing, gadgets come and go - while Oleg Penkovsky, the famous
Soviet spy of the 1960s, had to play with bulky microfilm containers, shoving
them behind a heater in a Moscow residential block, Marc Doe, 27, the man on
FSB's Sunday footage, used the famous "talking stone" and a Wi-Fi'd PDA - but
the game remains the same.
In Britain, people who stand on the cutting edge of intelligence technology are
hired openly, notably through the website where "high calibre graduates as well
as experienced professionals with strong practical skills and experience in
specialist fields from IT, software, networking, communications and technical
management" are promised involvement "in operational work or the installation of
IT systems around the world" and "opportunities for travel," although "careers
are more likely to be UK-based."
Personally, some people might now be regretting they once chose the "around the
world" option - because of professional failure as well as because British
stonemakers' "strong practical skills and experience" turned out to be not as
strong as they were meant to be. But institutionally, personal seems to be not
the same as important here. The British Government will hardly try to deny the
fact outright and certainly will not lament the minor setback. Foreign &
Commonwealth Office is going exactly the right way, not acknowledging but also -
wisely - not denying the accusations, only expressing "surprise" and "distress,"
which to the students of Diplomatese means totally unsurprising and not in the
What is important is the rest of the iceberg - Mr. Doe has signed up thousands
of pounds in funding for Russian human rights organizations, including the
Moscow Helsinki Group and Eurasia Foundation. In the footage, the Russian secret
service showed invoices with Mr. Doe's legible signature. A diplomat caught
spying can hardly hope to lead anyone in a normal state of mind into believing
he would never be tempted to use his connections with NGOs to operate "in
support of the British Government's policies and objectives."
So, the rest of the iceberg is that an increasingly clear equality sign is
looming between foreign intelligence and western-backed human rights efforts in
Russia. This is bad. This is bad not so much for Britain with its centuries-old
democracy, but above all for Russia, where ordinary people are just getting used
to the taste of genuine civil freedoms.
Here and now, human rights groups are doing a great job. In the face of an
independent court pressured by a human rights activist, a young man who is
physically unfit for military service is coming to believe that his parents need
not bribe the overzealous draftsman. Old and lonely people know where to find
free legal assistance to stand up against ravenous landlords trying to evict
them from their flats. People abused by corrupt construction companies
successfully press the city government to act on their behalf. What civil rights
activists do is change people's minds, screaming and kicking, into the minds of
free-thinking people, and this is exactly what this country needs to become
prosperous and democratic.
Now they have got a shot in the foot - not because, as Western media were quick
to note, the FSB has broadcast the video, but primarily because the man
officially responsible for addressing human rights in Her Majesty's Embassy to
Russia was in fact a spy.
Eurasia foundation has already acknowledged that Mr. Doe took an active part in
the foundation's daily activities, not just transferring the money but also
handling financial statements and running seminars training journalists for
The SIS has provided knock-out evidence that might be misused against the
Russian human rights movement at large because NGOs run by a spy obviously feel
the way they are driven. Now few will be surprised to hear that most NGOs -
mysteriously - avoided putting such issues as fight against corruption and
bureaucratic hindrance on top of their agendas and preferred to raise a row each
time the Russian military would ban "ecological" teams from entering areas close
to army test fields. Few will deny that such institutions intentionally used
democracy as a cloak and human rights as a dagger, and that their leaders were
totally aware what they were paid for.
The spy scandal should become a lesson Russian secret services must have learnt
from a classical shot-in-the-foot story of East Germany where Stasi, the secret
police, spent two decades carefully promoting their man Gunter Guillaume to the
inner circle of Willy Brandt, the then West German chancellor - only to see him
uncovered in 1974, upon which Mr. Brandt had to resign, burying all hopes of the
GDR and Soviet authorities for detente in Europe.
Most people will think that perhaps not always but often enough the end
justifies the means. The means that have been chosen here, however, hardly
correspond to the gravity and importance of the goal they were ostensibly
employed to achieve.
"Can't you see we're still here,
Can't you see we're still here,
Singing loud; Singing clear,
We shall not go under,
We're still here."
Nemesis Peace Centre
Abuse of Women and Children
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