MI5 founded on a lie, maintained on a lie, and still lying today – allegedly
If ever the term ‘secret services’ frightened you, stop worrying. Or maybe start worrying. Either way, BUGGER by Adam Curtis will give you a good laugh. It lays bare the fallacy that the spies we employ through our taxes and who spend more time spying on us than anyone else, know what they’re doing. Or are competent enough to do what they think they are doing.
It’s a series of stories about MI5, “and the very strange people who worked there. They are often funny, sometimes rather sad – but always very odd.”
It all started more than 100 years ago when a Franco/Brit called Le Queux wrote a fiction about a German invasion. I’m guessing it didn’t sell too well, because he took it to the Daily Mail. Lord Northcliffe ran the story as “‘The Invasion of 1910’ and it described how the Germans landed in East Anglia and marched on London.”
Thousands of Daily Mail readers wrote in, saying they had seen suspicious people – obviously German spies. Instantly, well rapidly, Britain’s spy service of one man and two assistants morphed into MI5, “created in large part by the dreams of a socially excluded novelist, and the paranoid imaginings of the readers of the Daily Mail.”
In other words, MI5 was born on the back of a lie (probably standing on the backs of four elephants on a turtle – pure comic fantasy). But it has carried on lying ever since. One such lie is the apprehension of a huge German spy ring in 1914. Historian Nicholas Hiley says,
One of the most famous successes of the British Security Service was its great spy round-up of August 1914. The event is still celebrated by MI5, but a careful study of the recently-opened records show it to be a complete fabrication – MI5 created and perpetuated this remarkable lie.
The great spy round-up of August 1914 never took place – as it was a complete fabrication designed to protect MO5(G) from the interference of politicians or bureaucrats.
The claim made next day that all but one had been arrested was false, and its constant repetition by Kell and Holt-Wilson [director and deputy director) was a lie.
And MI5 hasn’t stopped lying. Perhaps the biggest continuing lie is that it catches spies. “The terrible truth,” writes Curtis, “truth that began to dawn in the 1980s was that MI5 – whose job it was to catch spies that threatened Britain – had never by its own devices caught a spy in its entire history.”
There was one spy called Geoffrey Prime. He actually worked for GCHQ and sold secrets to the Russians. And he was caught – not by MI5 or GCHQ, but by the Cheltenham police.
And so it goes on. WMD in Iraq anyone? The whole war on terror, perhaps? It’s certainly true that after the end of the Cold War with Russia, MI5 should have contracted. It didn’t though, because along came the war on terror that forced it, for the sake of national security, to expand and expand and expand.
So why do we need to worry about such ineptitude? It is simply this: MI5 and GCHQ are spying on all of us, and are pressuring the government to give them even greater surveillance powers. The phrase that it and the government always throw out is, “if you haven’t done anything wrong you have nothing to worry about.”
Really? With this lot? It seems to me, on the basis of Adam Curtis’ potted history, if you haven’t done anything wrong you’ve got everything to worry about. It’s only by being a genuine threat that you will avoid the myopic gaze of the British intelligence services.
BUGGER, by Adam Curtis. Go read. Go laugh. Go cry.