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08 March 2015


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Chris - you are right. I think 'spying' is for most part extremely boring, trawling through thousands of pictures of babies and letters to Auntie Mary.

But once in a 100 thousand it might throw up something useful (a pollie paying a businessman here, a lawyer taking a bribe there). And the occasional info about secession movements in Bougainville or West Papua.

But the political masters deem it not worth using. Such as details of the financial transactions of PNG leaders buying property in other countries.

I'm sure ASIO and ASD have this info, otherwise what's the point of them? You can get the same from trawling the property registers in North Queensland.

Trouble is, it is never revealed, so the crooks go unmasked.

My favourite writer is Patrick O'Brian, whose second best hero, Maturin, is a spy.

“But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.”


“Wit is the unexpected copulation of ideas.”

And I haven't mentioned choosing the lesser of two weevils.

I've often wondered about that guy who hangs around my letterbox - now I know.

For many of us, our ideas about spies and spying are derived from seeing James Bond movies or reading John Le Carre novels.

In reality, far from being an activity that always occurs in the shadows, most intelligence gathering occurs in broad daylight.

Public sources of information are the bread and butter of the intelligence service. It is astonishing how much information is freely available if you know where to look.

As well, we citizens make a substantial contribution through our use of credit cards, reward cards, internet purchasing and a host of other eminently traceable sources of raw data.

Our incessant chatter on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and other internet based fora (no doubt including this one) will be routinely scanned to see what can be found.

Some of us, for whatever reasons, become willing sources of information for intelligence agencies, thus forming part of the chain of "human intelligence" operatives.

Add to this the satellite imagery, observation drones, phone records and, now, TV's that observe us and no spy agency ever lacks for data.

The trick is to sift through it all and deduce something both accurate and meaningful from it.

As to the morality of spying, it has been said that either everybody spies or nobody spies.

Australia and NZ spy on their pacific neighbours not because they suspect them of knowingly doing anything against their interests but because they deal with others who definitely have interests or ambitions that are sometimes inconsistent with our own.

So long as that remains the case, then spying will be a necessary and sometimes embarrassing evil.

Well we've always been doing it (spying that is) going back to at least the ancient Greeks.

And didn't the Israelites send spies into Canaan? (Numbers 13)

"The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel."

But they weren't spying on all of us which the technology gives spooks the ability to do now. Even these messages on PNG Attitude will be intercepted, and maybe interpreted in the wrong way.

Just makes me think makes George Orwell wasn't too far wrong. Even the new generation of internet TV's can watch you while you are watching them.

I think it is in a country's interest to do that almost always covertly.

Australia and New Zealand will always be concerned with signs of instability in Pacific Island countries, as we tend to be unpredictable.

It is always in their strategic interests to do so.

The question to ask is whether it is encroaching on our national sovereignty. But with globalisation and other international forces so powerful, many developing countries' sovereignty have been sacrificed.

I endorse Peter's favorite quotes here. After all aren't we all spies in some sense?

The worst spies are ourselves, in the country, preying on others, looking over our shoulders and scheming and spying some more on those whom we are scheming to topple or embezzle from!

If they are scared of terrorism, why can't they spy on the Asians or the Middle Easterners.

The Pacific poses no threat of that nature. It's scary when these countries with great economic power and which are technologically advanced spy on the small Pacific nations. What are they silently looking for?

Philip, I believe they are greatly concerned about China and its influence - KJ

I'd like to see a response from PNG Telikom and Digicel and maybe Pangtel (the authorising authority).

Australia and New Zealand's spy networks should be working around the clock to stop the boat people even before they set foot on the boats.

Why spy on Pacific islanders when there is zero threat posed against them by these island nations?

Some favourite quotes about spies and writers (which I think are related professions).

"See and keep silent." Sir Francis Walsingham

“No need to listen for the fall. This is the world's end.” Kipling

"You are not angry with people when you laugh at them. Humour teaches tolerance." Maugham

"It's part of a writer's profession, as it's part of a spy's profession, to prey on the community to which he's attached, to take away information - often in secret - and to translate that into intelligence for his masters, whether it's his readership or his spy masters. And I think that both professions are perhaps rather lonely." And "A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” Le Carre

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