Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Spies and the left

I've been watching with interest the BBC series Modern Spies, presented by Peter Taylor.

Taylor has a justified reputation for high journalistic standards having extensively covered Northern Ireland over the last forty years and his approach here was similarly thorough and enlightening, The series covered both the Security Service (MI5), responsible for internal security and spycatching, and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) which runs British spies in foreign countries. Unsurprisingly, much of MI5's work is now focussed on stopping Islamist bombers and from Taylor's interviews with anonymised serving MI5 officers it appears many of its current operatives are from a Muslim background.

This led me to wonder how much time MI5 now spends monitoring the left and what threat it thinks it poses to the British state (not much in both cases I would guess). Up until at least the 1980's, MI5 had a whole section spying on the left and labour movement and files on around a million people. As a civil servant, my transfer to the MoD as a civilan pay clerk was blocked on the grounds that I wouldn't pass "security clearance" so I guess that like many other socialists I have one. Unlike Jack Straw when he was Home Secretary though, I doubt I'll be getting to read mine any time soon.

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