Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 9 January 2015
The good old bad days
MI6 probably thought it could relax a bit after the Berlin Wall came down and the IRA seemed to move into ordinary politics, but they are worked off their little feet right now, and are desperately trying to increase their effectiveness by openly circumventing privacy laws rather than covertly circumventing them as they used to do.
It has come to something when Britain's Secret Service has to ask permission to tap into potential terrorist's mobile phones and internet, but that is what they are doing right now. I can't help thinking that they would do it anyway, but by publicly asking politicians if it would be ok, they may just be trying to show the bad guys that they are on their case. Maybe that is just another conspiracy theory.
Real criminals seldom use the internet for anything other than a bit of online shopping, though. They use the 'Dark Net', which the police and MI6 need no permission to break into without a warrant.
The Dark Net must be a pretty unpleasant place to hang around. Hard-line religious fundamentalists are forced to rub shoulders with paedophiles, arms-delaers and drug-dealers, which must produce not a little conflict of interest. I suppose the 'tea-boys' of the Afghanistan war-lords who grow opium to fund their activities amount to much the same thing as sex-slaves, so maybe it is not so different after all.
I miss the innocent days of my innocence, when The Famous Five could round up criminals during Summer holidays by the sea, and the criminals were usually swarthy and unshaven Gypsies with blackish, ragged clothes, hobnail boots and peaked caps - before Adidas had even been thought of.
Do you remember randomly tuning the big, old-fashioned valve radios and stumbling upon strange broadcasts in the middle of the night, which consisted of a man carefully reeling-off lists of apparently haphazard numbers for hours on end?
These broadcasts were made in the heart of London to be listened to by British spies in the field, when the 'field' was often East Germany, Russia or any other Eastern Block country.
The spy would set off from England carrying a perfectly ordinary novel or thriller which might have been popular in the day, and an identical copy was kept at the headquarters of the network at home.
A message would be sent to the spy abroad, broadcast at a certain time and at a certain frequency, and the code was simple.
The page number of the book would be chosen, then various letters of various lines in the book would be selected and given a number according to their position on the page. Laboriously, the spy could make up the sentence at his leisure, having dictated the numbers on a bit of paper as they were broadcast. Delightfully simple and cryptic without knowing what the book was. You could even hide codes within this code if you thought that the enemy knew what the book might be.
The other thing I liked listening to was the radio jamming signals put out by the Russians to block these transmissions. They were like listening to a huge, mad factory rhythmically producing some hellish product which created radio-waves as a by-product.
Many's the time I have fallen asleep in a German hotel room listening to all that stuff.