I’ve written before about how, at the age of 25, I discovered that my father was a very senior member of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.
I was visiting him in Washington, where he was serving in what had once been Kim Philby’s job - as the SIS liaison with the CIA. One reason that he chose to tell me on that visit, I think, was that during my stay at his house in Washington, some of his colleagues from London would also be visiting.
He needed to know that I would not say or do anything untoward. I was, after all, a long-haired journalist working for the Sydney rock station Double-Jay. Not exactly prime security material.
The plummeting sales of newspapers worldwide have brought about an epidemic of soul-searching about the future of journalism: do people still want straight reporting in the age of blogs? Is there room any longer for large reporting organisations like newspapers and network TV News? Above all, who’s going to pay?
Whatever the answers to those questions, it’s a good time to be reminded of what journalism can be at its best, and the Washington Post has produced exactly such a reminder. If you read nothing else this week, bookmark this site.
Over two years, two Washington Post reporters have been assembling an investigative series into what they call Top Secret America, and the results are fascinating.
In the latest development in the fake passport controversy, Britain has expelled a senior Israeli diplomat and demanded a public assurance that Israel will not misuse British passports again.
This is in response to Israel’s Mossad spy agency allegedly killing a Hamas leader in Dubai in January, with the assassination team using forged foreign passports, including at least three from Australia.
However, you don’t have to be a chest thumping, Alexander Downer-like armchair warrior who relishes assassination to realise that western countries, including Australia, are overreacting.
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To the casual observer the Israeli embassy in Canberra looks like any other diplomatic mission in the leafy suburbs of Deakin and Yarralumla. Appearances can be deceiving.
The inside of Israel’s chancery building is more like a mini-fortress than the well-to-do family home visible from the street. Visitors are treated with all the caution you would expect from the world’s most suspicious and fearful regime whose enemies are everywhere, even quiet and peaceful Canberra.
There are no friendly receptionists offering cups of tea and visitors are greeted by lean looking men with crew cuts and bulges under their arms, ear pieces permanently in place. There are no smiles, no small talk, just searches, scans and an array of CCTV cameras.
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I was 25 when my father first told me he was a spy.
It was 1977, and I was in New York as a tourist, on my first visit to the United States, and Dad was living in Washington.
I had not seen him since 1971, when I had spent two months with him and my stepmother travelling around Mongolia, where he was then Britain’s Ambassador. We were not estranged: we had just been living or working in different parts of the globe throughout that time.
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