Friday, January 30, 2015

Spies Are All Around You

In the old days, spies hid themselves and you never saw them. Today, they are everywhere all around you, often in plain sight.

Former spies are writing their memoirs, appearing as expert commentators on TV news shows, and writing opinion pieces in newspapers. It's hard not to notice them these days.

Secret spillers such as Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are household names.

Some spies, stuck in the old days, don't really want to be noticed but they are anyway, like the 3 Russians in the recently-uncovered New York City Spy Ring.

Another is Colombia's former intelligence chief Maria del Pilar Hurtado, who went missing but is surrendering to face charges of spying on journalists and politicians.

I should mention as well the US scientist Pedro Mascheroni, formerly employed at Los Alamos National Lab, jailed for trying to pass nuclear secrets to Venezuela.

I'll pause here to remark that in the old days, spies would often steal secrets and pass them to the communists in Russia. But ideology as a reason for espionage has waned as it's tough for any rational person to get all hyped up over communism anymore, although some still do. But more common is "racial" espionage, where the traitor and the receiver of stolen goods share the same ethnic and racial background. In this case, the Argentine Mascheroni and the receiver "Venezuela" are both in the Hispanic world. Many more examples.

As we know, the NSA is always spying on phone calls and such, even though you can't see them. German leader Angela Merkel is figuring out ways to prevent the NSA from snooping on her, including the use of typewriters. And Brazil is building its own undersea cable across the Atlantic in similar hopes of keeping the NSA's prying eyes away.

We've always seen spies on TV going back to a 1960s TV show like "Get Smart" and the James Bond movies with Sean Connery. But that was nothing like today, where it seems you can always find a spy show on a cable channel at any time. Some current TV shows:
  • Homeland
  • The Americans
  • State of Affairs
  • Covert Affairs (now cancelled after 5 seasons)
  • Allegiance (stars next week)
  • 24 (a revival soon to appear)
Spy novels remain popular, led by current authors like Brad Thor and Daniel Silva, and classic authors like Robert Ludlum and Ian Fleming.

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