Friday, May 25, 2007

Don't Mess with the KGB - Part 1

Everybody's heard of the famous Soviet-era secret police force, the KGB and its fearsome reputation. There are signs lately that Russia's special services (the Russian leadership refers to them as the 'competent organs' which is ironic because their enemies have frequently found themselves missing some organs) are enjoying something of a renaissance.

And I'm here to tell you why that's a good thing.

First let's dispel a myth. The foreign intelligence arm of the KGB, the First Chief Directorate, was not a refuge for thugs and maniacs. In fact, given the rarity of investment banks and international law firms operating in the Soviet Union, the FCD was the go-to place offering career advancement and foreign travel for all the top graduates. So they were an excellent adversary for the CIA and its allies.

Now since the collapse of the Soviet Union and until 9/11, the CIA, NSA, DIA (bet you've not heard of that one!), FBI, and so on, have had to struggle to justify their enormous secret budgets. In the absence of any real threat they are forced to turn inwards and start making up absurd movie-plot threats like this one, and building databases and spying on ordinary citizens.

But with the Russians up to their old tricks again the kind of nonsense that leads to cartoons like this...

should be a thing of the past!

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