31 Mar 2012

Secret service as adaptation

Posted by jofr

A classic secret service, intelligence service or news service like the MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, employs secret agents like “James Bond” who spy for the agency. Where does it come from? Why is it needed at all?

An intelligence agency is used to obtain and evaluate information about potentially hostile countries, nations, or forces. The purpose is the supply the government with information about potential dangers to national security and impending crises.

We have seen earlier that the ability to obtain, process and evaluate information, called intelligence, can be seen as an adaptation to change. As H.G. Wells said in “The Time Machine”: “there is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change”. Manipulation of information and distortion of reality – including flattering, lying, deceiving and pretending – can be considered as an adaptation, too. It is as adaptation to the expectations of the observer.

Now, obtaining and manipulating information is a central task of an intelligence service. Is it a kind of adaptation to a certain condition or need as well? In combats and wars, information about the enemy is of crucial importance. It is essential to be informed about any hidden change in the forces and actions of the enemy. Lack of information means decreasing the ability to react to attacks.  If you do not know what is going on, you are not prepared to defend yourself appropriately by reacting fast enough. Adaptation is the best defense.

Secret agents are intended to obtain information about hidden operations which may affect national security. The classic secret agent of your majesty, James Bond aka 007, is a product of the cold war. Countries were divided by an iron curtain, and the purpose of the secret agent was to look for answers to the question “What is going on?” in the hostile foreign countries behind the curtain. A secret agent or intelligence service is necessary if there is a struggle between two parties, countries or ideologies, and one side tries to hide information from the other. For example some country tries to fight your country or behaves increasingly hostile, while keeping back essential information about secret weapons, military operations, etc.

Thus a classic secret service, intelligence service or news service is used to obtain important secret information. The CIA or the MI6 in the cold war had the purpose to obtain information about changes and hidden activities in the Soviet Union. In a conflict of national states and opposing countries, such a service is necessary to get information about processes and operations in countries with restricted freedom, esp. if they are “closed” countries locked behind a wall, firewall or iron curtain.

In this sense, an intelligence service can be considered as an adaptation to restrictions of freedom (freedom of the press, political freedom, freedom of religion, ..) in opposing countries or international organizations. It should guarantee the ability to adapt and react to hidden changes and activities. This means the secrecy of the secret service is nothing but an adaptation to the secrecy and the lack of freedom  in closed countries and evil dictatorships: “if you operate in secrecy, we can do it, too”.

Are secret services still needed if there are no longer big wars between national states
and if the number of closed countries and evil dictatorships declines? This is at least a
question which should be debated in modern democracies. Today in the digital age of social networks, everybody is registered at big social networks like Google+, Twitter or Facebook. It is probably more important to have an internal source at Facebook or Google than to have a top secret agent in Burma, or is it?

 (The picture showing Pierce Brosnan in Cannes is from Wikipedia. Like Sean Connery  he played the classic secret agent James Bond in a number of Hollywood films)


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