Sunday, November 15, 2009


Spooks is described by the BBC as a “tense drama series about the different challenges faced by the British Security Service as they work against the clock to safeguard the nation.” It began life as a rather transparent attempt to rehabilitate the “spooks” after their role in compiling a pack of lies to justify the Iraq War.

It is a very well-written series of thrillers with a cast of interesting characters with rather more depth than you would expect in the oddly named “intelligence community.” Like its distant predecessor “The Professionals” it portrays them as human beings with a social conscience about the jobs they are asked to perform for the safety of the nation. And there you were thinking they were all old Etonians with a conscience bypass!

In a recent episode (Episode 3 of Series 8) the whole issue of hostage taking and negotiating with terrorists is explored in an exciting narrative in which a group of high-powered capitalists (a thinly disguised fictional version of the Bilderberg group) are kidnapped by terrorists who have no intention of getting a ransom but instead put the capitalists on trial for mass murder in the third world and video the evidence, while uploading incriminating documents on the internet. . The Spooks are powerless as tens of thousands vote “guilty” on the internet and the terrorists carry out the death penalty online.

This feeds the common fantasy that anti-capitalists are all potential terrorists and of course justifies the 'spooks' real life policy of monitoring everyone to the left of Peter Mandelson – about half the population,

The plot also showed that the anti-capitalists were actually naïve tools of a russian gangster-capitalist (definitely not called Abramovich , there are libel laws after all!) who wanted to eliminate his rivals.

The program definitely does not whitewash the dirty tricks the Spooks get up to but seeks to justify them. One scandal of the last decade has been the use of torture by the British secret service “by proxy”. They have been accused of using evidence provided by third parties such as the Americans at Guantanamo. In the show Lucas North (played by Richard Armitage) is shown torturing the Russian Mafioso in his own swimming pool in order to save the lives of the hostages. This is a far cry from the real life “Spooks” torturing Omar Deghayes for five years at various camps with no realistic prospect of getting any information or saving any lives. Nevertheless it is the justification of torture.

Spooks is an excellent program which maintains the tension and excitement all through. It does deal with the real life issues in the secret service. You might want to take its representation of the real life “Spooks” with a pinch of salt though!

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