A case of MI6 and Mossad envy

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A case of MI6 and Mossad envy

A few months ago, British daily newspapers ran a unique full-page advertisement. The teaser started with the catchy title, “What are you waiting for?” You had to read through the 450-word text to know what it was about. “You see, we don’t care what sex you are or where you are from. We don’t even care what you do now, only what you can do. Someone with a consuming political curiosity, who believes in the importance of promoting and protecting British interests both at home and abroad.” The convention-breaking advertisement is a recruitment ad for MI6, as the Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom is known.

It concludes with a warning. “You may feel like talking to friends or family about this. That’s completely natural and will end your application process before it’s even started. So if you want to discuss applying, discuss it with us and no one else.” It was a highly sophisticated ad aimed at aspiring spies.

There is no way to confirm that all MI6 agents keep their identities secret from family and friends. But I can’t recall a scene in which Bond: James Bond, speaks to or meets his family and personal friends. When Gareth Williams, an employee of MI6, was found dead inside a Security Service safe house in London, neighbors and friends said they did not know what he did for living.

It is even more mysterious what MI6 does. James Bond has a license to kill and cracks down on evil groups around the world, but let’s say movies are just movies. One of the accomplishments of MI6 made public on British media in the past few years was that it tracked down Muammar el-Qaddafi and his sons during the Libyan civil war and tipped the militia.

Whenever a terrorist plot is revealed in advance, we can presume MI6 and MI5’s involvement, but no details have been disclosed. While British media are known to go the extra mile digging into stories, it is not easy to penetrate these two agencies. In large part, the circumstances of Williams’ death and his duty still remain confidential.

The MI6 recruitment advertisement illustrates the dual existence of spies - their hidden identity and devotion to national interest. The spirit coincides with the motto of Korea’s old Central Intelligence Agency: “Work in the Shadows to Serve the Light.”

Lately, the National Intelligence Service has lost some of its charm, secrecy and grand cause. A member of the NIS was caught by the opposition party leaving malicious comments online. A former NIS chief was revealed to have been involved in elections and has other personal scandals.

Israeli intelligence agency Mossad is suspected to have assassinated a Syrian general, an Iranian nuclear specialist and a Palestinian militia leader over the past few years. Other allegations include abductions and bombings. Of course, there is no solid evidence.

While we don’t approve of the “state-sponsored terror attacks,” their capacity to orchestrate shadowy operations deserves our respect and, even, envy.

* The author is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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