Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Spy Who Hated Me

With the resignation of the head of Spain's intelligence service, the CNI, the newspaper El Mundo is celebrating another head on a stake following that of the former justice minister Mariano Bermejo a few months ago. The man who resigned this week, Alberto Saiz, was accused of abusing his position as boss of the intelligence agency to fund fishing trips and work on his house. It's still not clear how much truth there is in the accusations, but what seems to be beyond doubt is that they came from within the agency itself. Saiz was finally forced to resign when it became clear that the government was not going to support his plan to clear out all of his numerous enemies within the CNI.

It seems that the CNI, formerly a military agency, is full of people who have been removed from their posts by Saiz but who remain as part of the CNI. Now the government has appointed a former general to be the new head of the agency and it is clear that he has a tough job ahead clearing out some of the autonomous factions that have developed in the CNI. I've always felt that infighting in what is often misnamed the "intelligence" service can have benefits for the rest of society. Based on the British experience many such agencies are full of far right political fanatics who are much happier spying on people whose politics they dislike than they are doing any job which might be considered useful. Either that or they are secretly working for rival agencies.

The conclusion you reach with the resignations of Bermejo and Saiz is that hunting and fishing at public expense is seen as a serious crime, whilst filling your bottomless pockets with public money for other purposes is not. It remains to be seen how long that situation can be sustained.

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