It conjures up images of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther with his heavy moustache, deerstalker Sherlock Holmes hat, his beige trench coat and clutching his magnifying glass, poised over a top secret document.

Of course our spy agency, the Security Intelligence Service, is nothing like that, but it's hard to escape the image when yet another report comes out telling us how slack they've been.

Their sharp as a tack, pinstripe suited minister Chris Finlayson conjures up the image of an MI5 chief, which gleaming shoes fit for a phone, brushing off reporters like flies, acerbically barking at them that his spy service is getting its house in order. With him to answer to, he leaves the impression, that if they fall short of his razor sharp expectations then they'll have no choice but to pack their briefcases with their pies and Penthouses, and take it elsewhere pronto.

But we're now told our spies, who give security clearances to around 5000 bureaucrats taking a job with the Government each year, leave the information around that can be freely viewed by up to 60 spooks who work in the area.


The spy's ever vigilant watchdog Cheryl Gwyn in a report rightly says staff should have access only to the files they're working on themselves and only while those files are active. Think of that other organisation that holds sensitive info, the cops. If any one of them is caught accessing information they're not working on, there's hell to pay.

And the security information gathered by the spies on Government employees is as personal as you can get. They seek the good oil on sexual proclivity, the stability of marriages, fidelity, temperament, whether they can be trusted, whether they're loose lipped, if they ever over imbibe and even if they're partial to the odd spliff of wacky baccy and all that's before finding out whether they're actually qualified for the job.

Trouble is the people they talk to to find out this intimate info are usually nominated by the person under the spotlight, obviously a mate, which means the spies are unlikely to get the truth and nothing but.

And in my experience acting as a referee on a number of occasions and being interviewed by the SIS, the contact is usually made well after the person's begun working on the dark side and is by that time well versed in the so called classified material!

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