The scant intelligence of the intelligence services that spy on us

Some time ago the golden age of the secret intelligence services of most of the countries around us ended.

The scant intelligence of the intelligence services that spy on us

Some time ago the golden age of the secret intelligence services of most of the countries around us ended. Its decline begins with the fall of the Berlin wall, and recklessly steps on the accelerator from the rise of the internet and social networks, along with the amazing advances in fields such as technology or artificial intelligence.

Even so, we are still fascinated by guys like James Bond and the tormented spies of Graham Greene or John le Carré, but rather for literary or cinematographic reasons, since they belong to an already defeated past, surpassed, like the characters of Dickens or Galdós, and Let alone tough-as-nails private investigators like Sam Spade. Now, any son of a neighbor reaches out to specialized stores -also, or especially, online- in gossip for espionage and counter-espionage that are really implausible and within reach of all pockets. His catalogs are as amazing as they are disturbing.

The British MI6 whose main function is to ensure national security abroad through espionage, was created in 1909. Its first director, Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming, occupied the small office assigned to him without being at all clear what it consisted of your mission. In addition to a desk and a chair, it had a telephone that for the first few weeks never rang since no one knew about it: its very existence was a state secret! So it can be said that the launch of MI6 was more like a Monty Python or Super Agent 86 gag than a serious attempt to gather intelligence on the nation's enemies overseas, who were certainly not few, nor were they fools. .

Curiously -or perhaps not-, MI6 did not receive official recognition until 1994, that is, until then it was more or less on its own. That yes, all the successors of the pioneer Cumming are known as "C", in his honor, because this man, already retired and flaunting British humor, threatened to write his memoirs that would have an extension of 400 pages... all them blank!

The current MI6 has little or nothing to do with that of its humble origins. It has a budget of many zeros, a website and finds new recruits online, in addition to prohibiting the use of any type of torture and requiring its agents to act with total transparency and responsibility at all times. However, he is still reluctant to declassify the millions of top secret documents he treasures.

The US National Security Agency (NSA) was launched from abroad in 1920, in order to collect any compromised or compromising information and in any way, often illegally. President Woodrow Wilson appointed a certain Herbert O. Yardley as director of the enigmatic agency, who devised a system that allowed him to access all telegrams sent from within the country or from abroad, a laborious activity that of course was totally illegal. But it did not become really effective until it reached an agreement with the Western Union company, which in those years worked like a primitive version of social networks thanks to its telegram system. This perverse deal allowed Yardley to secretly spy on millions of people.

The NSA would continue to expand its activities and effectiveness until a Senate committee discovered the cake in 1975, which led to the approval, in 1978, of the Foreign Intelligence Validity Act, which required the NSA to seek judicial approval before start an investigation. And so it continued, with its ups and downs, until 9/11, when the Bush Administration, no matter how much it denied it, reinstated illegal wiretapping while legislating by decree.

In 2005, Congress gave the NSA carte blanche. Since then, as Edward Snowden or Julian Assange would uncover in their day, this agency -and it was far from the only one- spies with impunity on everyone, including dozens of presidents and heads of state, and with greater efficiency after reaching a according to the internet servers known to all.

Governments spy on citizens, and vice versa; employers to employees, and vice versa; parents to their children, and vice versa; husbands to their wives, and vice versa… and the secret services do their job, more or less. So, having seen what has been seen and lived what has been lived, and since now we are all, at least potentially, spies, reporters, photojournalists, private detectives, opinion-makers, informers... perhaps we should admit that the only truly secure telephone is still the Mr Smith-Cumming taking over MI6. Well, and the cell phone of Miguel Ángel Revilla, president of Cantabria.

Let's not be naive: researching Pegasus is like chasing chimeras. In other words, Rome would not be the eternal city if it did not have its Cloaca Maxima.