Finding one person or one nation to blame is just going to waste time.  Focus is on the here and now, and then recovery.

At times like these, finding someone to blame or accusing various Governments or Organisations of acting too late or irresponsibly is a luxury one can only afford in times..... not like these.  Of course, there will be criticisms, there will conspiracy theories and who knows, maybe some of them might be true.  But what remains, is what it is.  So the UK Government will be trying to find a fair balance between delivering some positive soundbites (the 'noble lies' we referred to) and keeping order, and the mammoth task of committing resources at the right time and in the right places.

 

Of course, this is a war.  It is a war we have been preparing for and a war which unlike in previous years (the Spanish Flu being the obvious one) we can actually win.  So, from that perspective, that has to be encouraging.  One can only imagine what we would have done without the medication, the scientists, the emergency services, the civil servants keeping the Whitehall machine well oiled.  It is hands to the pump and perfectly suited to the typical bulldog British spirit.  We also have some other positives to take from this.  For the first time in a situation of this type and scale, we can see countries working together (in the main) to share information and resources.  If we take Trumps apparent attempt to clinch the antidote supply from the Germans as the actions of a dick, then overall despite Brexit, we can and are working alongside our European neighbours in many ways behind the scenes.

 

What the Government and specifically PM Boris is asking of us as citizens is pretty simple and frankly, is all we can do.  This virus is airborne and therefore if we are not in the same space as the virus, we are unlikely to get it.  Meerkat simplicity perhaps, but true, nonetheless.  Isolation isolation and isolation....and just when you think you cannot stand it any longer, then more isolation.  The life of a hermit is a safe one indeed nowadays and with the benefit of Amazon and 'porch delivery', we have the facilities now to live safely.... not as before.  If the really radicalised conspiracists i.e. the drum beating Christian fraternity so splendidly represented in middle America are going to be true to form, then this is probably Armageddon or Gods way of punishing the overindulgent, unholy folk.  Although, given that the homeless person with his cardboard box is probably safer than the average City trader at the moment, then maybe the meek really shall inherit the earth.  We jest.

It is not surprising that the Government has to be positive but even that is riddled with danger.  Underplaying what has the potential to be 10-15 times deadlier than seasonal flu is not something taken lightly.  So, as mentioned earlier, Boris has to tread a careful path.  Also, this is so early in the process there is simply not enough statistically significant empirical evidence to support any predictions.  There are AI predictive models being used across the World to fill with daily data from literally thousands of sources and variables.  Scenarios with probability assessments and within each of those, further plans and contingency measures taken to be switched on at a moment’s notice.  This is why international cooperation beyond normal is absolutely essential.  The MAGA supporters might poo poo the overwhelming evidence on climate change and the need for harmonisation, but when they see coffins, body bags and hospitals unable to cope, and tangible consequences, all of a sudden maybe then they will feel more inclined to replace the A for America, will A for ALL.  The social media fuelled "me me me" egocentric generation of snapchatters and tweeters may also for the first in their short lives realise that life is not like a series of ads on a YouTube video where we can just click "skip" to get past the bad parts.  ALL nations regardless of culture, ideology, politics, religion, are comprised of human beings, and human beings have an inherent predisposition to bond in times of trouble.  It might be contrary to the ideals promoted by the internet age, but human DNA has been around much longer than binary code and microchips and as long as lessons are learnt, then maybe some positive will come out of this.  However, before we start placing daisies behind our ears and growing our hair way too long, one thing we also know about the human DNA thing, is that it has some dangerous faults. Which is why there are law enforcement agencies, a judiciary, an executive and organisations like MI6 and MI5, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to stack the odds a little more in our favour. 

As things stand at the moment, the common enemy is not human, albeit man-made, and It is certainly a time for faith.  Faith in your Government and the machine and faith it has the capability to, as Boris puts it, "send the virus packing'.  Criticisms and recrimination can take a back seat until this is all over.  That said, it might be worth just mentioning the latest snippet from the PM which suggested we could see the worst of this over within 12 weeks.  If you believe that you will believe anything.  We are in this for the long haul and we all have to remember this is the beginning and it is very early days.  It's a cliché, but "hope for the best prepare for the worst" is the order of the day.  Certainly from an economic perspective, the effects of the 2008 banking crisis will seem like child’s play compared to the repercussions which are going to be felt long after the last Corona antidote has been administered.  When one considers what we saw with the Government intervening and partially nationalising some of the Banks, on what scale will that now happen across the board?  We are seeing it already in some European countries already and state intervention may result in an all new economic blueprint for the future.  Who knows?  Perhaps cross that bridge etc etc.

There have also been some notable silences in all this and various topics have not yet been covered more fully, but that may well change.  Russia for example is very much keeping its cards close to its chest as one might expect. What exactly is happening and why it has taken the path it has, is well beyond this writer’s paygrade and the scope of this piece.  With so much disinformation from Russia and virtually no sure-fire way of verifying their data, it may as well be simply ignored.  What will provide us with more information than the data itself, is change in the delivery of that data to the West and signs of any changes in the subject matter.  From a purely logical perspective, if we start with a basic assumption that all data from Russia is inaccurate, then all we do know for sure are details about the delivery of that data i.e when, who by, why has there been a shift from x to y, what has not been included, what has been included etc.  In essence, the fact that that is information, is fact.  At least it would allow for some interpretation and hopefully when combined with other information sources at the disposal of the West, then a more colourful picture can emerge.

So, what of the intelligence services?  All is relatively quiet and that is of no surprise.  So, we can only speculate on what business continuity arrangements are being followed as a result of what has happened.  The thrust of this piece comes from a 'realists' perspective and so talk of conspiracies should be saved for another time.  However, the danger with calling a possible threat or a possible cause, a conspiracy theory is that it is all encompassing possibly to the detriment of legitimate concerns.  Sure, where patient zero came from and why will be the cause of speculation for some time yet.  In keeping with the theme here however, that is the past and it is fruitless to pontificate at this stage. What is potentially worthy of legitimate consideration is the notion that if (and that is a huge if) there are organisations or factions that want to exploit vulnerabilties, whether pre-planned or not, it would be remiss of intelligence organisations not to entertain the idea.  However, with cap suitably doffed it would be impertinent for this writer to think for one minute that these scenarios have not been meticuously considered already.  We have often quipped that the Chinese, on the whole, seem to prefer the 'long game' and that is no great secret, rather it is part of their identity.  But surely even the staunchest suporter of consipracy theories would find it hard to table an argument that this was anything other than poor (very poor) management on the part of the Chinese government.  It is however, as they say, what it is, and so now more than in times BC (Before Corona), the proverbial sentry guards must be doubled, nay tripled.  We have already seen the cyber-velociraptors test the perimeter fences fo the Czech systems and the US Department of Health.  What we really have to stop however, is the larger players going to school on their put and taking notes we do not want them to have.

 

In terms of the day to day running of operations at home, we know that certain important jobs at GCHQ, MI6, MI5 and others will be desk based analytical roles.  We have discussed the importance of the neurodiverse community in organisations in general, at great length throughout this site.  GCHQ for example is a leading proponent when it comes to showing how people within that 'label' have far more superior skills in certain areas than those who are not. So, when we hear of 'social distancing' and working at home alone. it would be safe to say that for a relatively high proportion of staff at GCHQ, it will be business as usual.  Maybe the same can be said for many other roles such as those carried out by management teams, project leaders, intelligence offices and in fact most likely the majority of those located at Vauxhall Cross.  It is hard to conceive that it would be even a marginal risk for that majority, let alone one that would cause any disruption.  There are other locations of course spread across the UK, notably Manchester where people can be deployed.  The risk area as we see it would be for the less well known, we hate to say it, less glamorous roles.  The goods and services staff, drivers, delivery staff, procurement teams, the administrative teams, operations managers, project managers and coordinators and so on.  It is a long list of people who, might be perceived as the 'forgotten ones' but ones that nonetheless have a vital role in keeping the huge intelligence machine working.  With respect, many of these people may have had their commitment to noble, patriotic causes tested over the years and had them fade somewgat as a result, as with most of us who eventually settle into a routine, look at the net salary figure on the pay slip each month, and carry on.  These are not groups of people easily moved from one location to another.  They have families, ties and commitments and £24k a year is not worth dying for.  So, the organisation will be making allowances for that and from a logistical perspective we would submit, that is where the challenge must be.  The most common option at the moment proposed by employers and the Government is for people to work from home, and in the case of some SIS staff that may well be possible.  However, how on earth will they manage it when the net widens, and security classification means that staff cannot simply flick open a laptop at home.  Once again therefore we return to the notion of faith and that in times like these, we simply have no other choice but to put our faith (not in the biblical sense) in the contingency planning that has been in the pipeline for years.  That, and ensure we all do what little we can to live like Howard Hughes.

Intelligence Reports

14 April 2020

After AI comes Quantum AI...and then what?

When Google's Sycamore effectively moved us to the next step in AI it will become one of those defining moments...but how will Quantum Artificial Intelligence affect the Intelligence World?

21 March 2020

Neurodiversity & ASD within the Secret Intelligence Services

Some have gone as far as to say that the 'diverse' represent the next step in the evolutionary process.  Maybe.  But, ignore the Neurodiverse at your peril!

12 May 2020

A Government Department of Virus Safety

A Government run, uniform and credible safety certificate to be used across the board, would benefit UK business greatly.

Wuhan conspiracy theories aside, diplomatic traction is the reward.

 

A week or two ago we wrote an article "Conspiracies & Ripples" which focused primarily on conspiracy theories and kicked off with the rather obvious statement that a conspiracy theory is simply a theory without the facts i.e. just a theory.  Within that we highlighted that ‘flavour of the month’ theorist’s delight, the origins of the Coronavirus and its links to Wuhan.  This echoed our views published in February which, as many did, ponder the chances of this remote coincidence maybe actually being true.  Since then there have been swathes of articles on the topic citing all sort of sources and from numerous ‘renowned’ scientists.  We have also recently had the opinions offered by those whose opinions really count, that this virus originating from the labs in Wuhan may not actually be so far-fetched after all.

We do tend to agree, or at least we did.  That was then and this is now and in the world of Politics things move quickly and one does have to look at the reality of the situation.  If there is enough fog between you and your destination, then sometimes the route you take can change, leaving you all sorts of options.  If the objective was originally to circumnavigate through uncertain waters to establish who, what, why and when the virus came about – then that is now lost in the fog.  It is arbitrary.  Now we have something that is far more concrete and tangible to use to our advantage – we have uncertainty.  We now have enough debate and conspiracy to render the findings of the scientists open to interpretation.  And that… is a diplomat’s dream come true.   This particular carcass will feed many and although the WHO will go in, on the ground, and no doubt find yet more uncertainty…it really is irrelevant.  You will certainly not find individual government’s chomping at the bit to send their representatives into Wuhan anytime soon, and even if they did, why?  Wuhan is not some sleepy suburb in leafy Northamptonshire… it is in China.  Whatever was there has long gone, if indeed it was ever even there.  So perhaps it would be wise to assume that at least for the next few decades this is a conspiracy that will never find out those salient facts. 

Now, listening to the scientists, there is an overwhelming urge to say, “shush now”.  Step back ladies and gentlemen and look at the bigger picture at play.  Nobody is actually interested whether or not the virus started in Wuhan, intentionally or not.  As long as it is open to debate, it is far more valuable.  The scientists have debated at length and argued, but there is still no unequivocal proof either way that satisfies all parties…and why could that be?  Scientific fact is not open to debate or questioning, that is a given.  However, to say Science is correct, is not true.  That is because Science has Scientists, and Scientists are human beings who in turn are fallible and motivated by many many other factors.  In China for example, one might say that scientific fact is exactly what they want it to be.  Indeed, who is to say it ends in China.

 

So why is uncertainty such a blessing in this case?  It provides an additional bargaining chip and a weapon in the armoury for all Governments to now use against the Chinese.  Maybe on the other side of the fence their own initial conspiracy theory that a foreign Government (the US) planted the virus in their midst, is being written about in their own press.  Or maybe not. The fact is it is a safe bet to assume that no body will ever know.  There will be no compensations or admissions of guilt in this case sadly…however the capillaceous network that is politics, diplomacy and economic negotiations will be the real beneficiaries.

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