The biggest secret is that intelligence is dumb

Adam Curtis writes: The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they – and all the reactions to them – had one enormous assumption at their heart.

That the spies know what they are doing.

It is a belief that has been central to much of the journalism about spying and spies over the past fifty years. That the anonymous figures in the intelligence world have a dark omniscience. That they know what’s going on in ways that we don’t.

It doesn’t matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do.

But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different.

It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.

I want to tell some stories about MI5 – and the very strange people who worked there. They are often funny, sometimes rather sad – but always very odd.

The stories also show how elites in Britain have used the aura of secret knowledge as a way of maintaining their power. But as their power waned the “secrets” became weirder and weirder.

They were helped in this by another group who also felt their power was waning – journalists. And together the journalists and spies concocted a strange, dark world of treachery and deceit which bore very little relationship to what was really going on. And still doesn’t. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “The biggest secret is that intelligence is dumb

  1. Norman

    As with every thing humans do when they try to corner the market, there’s always a flaw. In the end, they fail, because humans aren’t perfect. There is no way to control every human on this planet unless you eliminate 99 99/100% of them but even then, that 01/100th% will still be too many. The folly in believing such can be accomplished, is like the man who tries to roll the stone up the incline, but runs out of steam near the top and the stone rolls back down, causing him to try again, but always repeating the same way, over and over again. One has to wonder why a man continues to make a fool out of himself trying to get the people to except his words/promises after 4+ years of flim-flaming them? The 1st, the last, never again.

  2. eugene

    All I have to do is read the comments section of most any blog. The crazies there are legion. If these same crazies can BS well enough, we elect them to office, hire them as police, enlist them in the military and then convince ourselves these same crazies have our interests at heart and will do the right thing.

    The classic for me is George Bush. Here’s a guy spouting he has been chosen by god. If you met this nut case at the local coffee shop, you’d shake your head and mutter to yourself. But
    he was elected president, he fabricated evidence of WMDs and led us into wars that countless Americans still believe in. So, in typical fashion, Americans elect another and the game goes on.

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