Saturday, March 15, 2014

Quote of the Day

Before John le Carré became a writer, he was an agent for both MI5 and MI6.  While still in the service, he got to know John Bingham, the famed British counter-intellignce agent.  Described as a “genius” agent,  Bigham ran a brilliant operation convincing British Nazi sympathizers that he was a representative of the Gestapo looking for people who could be relied on to help in the event of an invasion.  See The spy who turned Hitler’s British supporters into unwitting double agents.  In any event, Bingham ended up being part of the inspiration for le Carré's George Smiley.

Anyway, with this context I present you with the quote of the day (adding to the discussion, perhaps, about the current revelations of NSA surveillance and drone strikes):

SIR – John Bingham and I were indeed close friends and colleagues. I had, and shall always have, unqualified admiration for his intelligence skills and achievements. He was a most honourable, patriotic and gifted man, and we had wonderful times together.
And surely there can be few better tributes to a friend and colleague than to create – if only from some of his parts – a fictional character, George Smiley, who has given pleasure and food for thought to an admiring public.
But Bingham was of one generation, and I of another. Where Bingham believed that uncritical love of the Secret Services was synonymous with love of country, I came to believe that such love should be examined. And that, without such vigilance, our Secret Services could in certain circumstances become as much of a peril to our democracy as their supposed enemies.
John Bingham may indeed have detested this notion. I equally detest the notion that our spies are uniformly immaculate, omniscient and beyond the vulgar criticism of those who not only pay for their existence, but on occasion are taken to war on the strength of concocted intelligence.
David Cornwell (John le Carré)  
London NW3
Letter to the Daily Telegraph March 5, 2014.

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