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Tag: British

The Shin Bet puzzle

Thursday, 11 May, 2017 0 Comments

The Israeli domestic security service Shin Bet has adopted some of the recruiting techniques pioneered by the British during World War II. This became evident with the recent publication of a puzzle in the media for anyone to solve. Some 60,000 people submitted answers but only six succeeded in solving the puzzle. These six are now candidates for jobs in the new Shin Bet Cyber War unit.

Shin Bet puzzle

In the Second World War, the British recruited “Codebreakers” by posting cryptic word puzzles in newspapers and asking those who could solve them to send their answers to a seemingly innocuous address. There was a series of crosswords and those who managed to complete them all were asked to join the services. An upside of this recruiting technique was that a lot of women became British spies. Some of them were Jewish and they moved to Israel after the war and contributed their experience to the emerging Israeli intelligence services.

Interestingly, the Shin Bet agents hired via the public puzzle technique will undergo the same training that has been developed for Israeli commando units and will end up with the military skills and physical toughness typical of regular commandos. In the future, when Israel sends a unit on a raid to eliminate adversaries and acquire technology, several of Cyber War commandos might go along. These “nerds” will be able to keep pace with the regular commandos and quickly identify enemy technology. They will then take or destroy the right items and help neutralize the bad guys.

Note of caution: Many of those who completed the British puzzles during World War II were not interested in a job in intelligence but simply enjoyed doing crosswords. And, despite their innovating recruiting methods, the British ended up hiring lots of left wing traitors who went to spy for the Soviet Union. Those like Kim Philby became experts in falsifying intelligence and one of their specialties was “facelifting” the image of anti-communist movements to make sure they got more assistance from the West. These groups were then betrayed and their members turned, tortured or murdered.


Trump Day

Friday, 20 January, 2017 2 Comments

The Trump transition ends this morning and the Trump presidency begins this afternoon. How will it go? No one knows because leadership is so often determined by what British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan called “Events, dear boy, events.” Still, even if the coming four years disappoint friend and foe alike, Americans should be grateful to Donald Trump for one thing: ending dynastic politics, at least until 2020.

If Hillary Clinton had won last November, four of the last five US presidents would have come from two families: Bush and Clinton. In early 2016, so many of the then “respected” pundits predicted that the White House race would come down to another Clinton v. Bush run off and cynical Europeans took great delight in claiming this regular swapping of the top job between two connected families exposed the rot at the heart of American democracy. They were right. The election of Donald Trump has put an end to that. We wish him well in the difficult days ahead.

The White House


The mole in the machine

Saturday, 17 September, 2016 0 Comments

Dame Stella Rimington was the Director General of MI5, the UK’s domestic counter-intelligence agency, from 1992 to 1996. After retiring from the world of enigmas, she turned her hand to writing spy thrillers, a genre she loved long before she became a spy herself. In July 2004, her first novel, At Risk, about a female intelligence officer, Liz Carlyle, was published. This was followed by Secret Asset, Illegal Action, Dead Line, Present Danger, Rip Tide, The Geneva Trap and Close Call.

Liz Carlyle is summoned to Switzerland in The Geneva Trap for a meeting with a Russian agent who has approached the British with an offer of information. But he will only speak to Liz. He tells her that there is a mole in the Ministry of Defence in London, working for an unnamed third country tasked with stealing information about a secret US-UK project involving the next generation of drones. When one of the drones ignores the instructions of its human operator and self-destructs, it becomes obvious that someone is able to gain control of them and the race is on to find the hackers. Who are they? The Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans? Snippet:

“Clarity is concerned with the communication systems and commands sent to drones. We’ve developed protocols that let us send instructions to these new drones in natural language.”
“Natural?” asked Liz.
“As opposed to artificial ā€“ which is what computer languages are. Look.” And he flipped open the top of his laptop and tapped a key. The screen was filled with row after row of numbers and symbols. “That’s raw ASCII, the bits and bytes that tell this machine what to do.”
“Looks like Chinese to me,” said Peggy. Then realising what she’d said, blushed and added, “Oh, sorry. Let’s hope it’s not.”


Bosworth Field and Fay Hield

Saturday, 9 February, 2013 0 Comments

It was the week in which the bones of King Richard III, one of the great villain of British history, were confirmed to have been unearthed in a carpark. The last Plantagenet monarch died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and the recovery of his remains has thrilled the King Richard III Society, which now hopes “to secure a more balanced assessment of the king.”

On her last album, Looking Glass, Fay Hield sang not of King Richard III, but of King Henry. Her new album, Orfeo, contains a song called “Henry”. There’s something about that name, obviously. Anyway, here’s King Henry.


Cameron: It will be in-out

Wednesday, 23 January, 2013 0 Comments

“The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament. It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart. And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give […]

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Heading for the border, running for the bank exits

Wednesday, 16 May, 2012

“Greek depositors withdrew ā‚¬700 million ($898 million) from local banks Monday, the country’s president said, as he warned that the situation facing Greece’s lenders was very difficult.” The Wall Street Journal This is a classic Catch-22 situation as Greek depositors will increasingly want to avoid their valuable euros being turned into worthless drachmas, but a […]

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Pure Mo

Monday, 14 May, 2012

“We Asians like being Asians, Siamese being Siamese, Malays being Malays, Viets being Viets. But a warning. Scratch us, there’s a snarling xenophobe behind the smile.” So speaks Snooky, the hero/heroine of Pure, the latest novel by Timothy Mo. By the way, Snooky is a well-endowed Bangkok lady boy who joins a group of bloodthirsty […]

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