THREE spies walk into a bar. One is from China, one from Vanuatu and one from Japan. They spy each other and exchange greetings.
The first looks at the others and says: "The Key is not for turning."
The man from Vanuatu answers: "Do we have a spare Key?" The third man looks puzzled, then remembers the password - "I know where the Key is."
Immediately they relax, shake hands and the man from China orders three beers. They take off their trenchcoats and move to a table in a dark corner.
"I'm sure someone followed me here," says the Vanuatuan. "Yes, I saw someone pretending to be reading a newspaper and talking into his shirtcuffs on my way here," replies the Japanese gentleman.
"Indeed," says the Chinese spy. "I asked why he was watching me. He muttered something about guarding Nuzland and needing five eyes to keep track of us all.
"I invited him to join us for a drink but then he started rambling about mass collection and mass surveillance, so I left him to it."
The three spies raise their glasses, propose a toast - "To espionage" - then launch into a discussion about why their friends would waste time spying on them.
The spies from Vanuatu and Japan are particularly miffed. Perhaps there is a need to know why Japanese tourists like sheep-shaped souvenirs or whether chopsticks are a secret weapon designed to humiliate the Western diner?
The spy from Vanuatu is sure it is more about the opportunity to have a few days at a beachside resort under the pretext of neutralising the potential threat of sunburn.
The man from China does not laugh but looks solemnly at the others. "We spent a lot of time spying on ourselves, so any help we can get from information gathered by other countries is useful.
"New Zealand spy on us, so it is easier to let them find things, then we just spy on their spies to see what they found out - that saves us a lot of time and effort.
"We have nicknamed them four eyes because their spies always wear dark glasses - even inside at night."
The three spies all fall about laughing.
Once they have collected their wits, the Vanuatu spook tells the other two about electronic surveillance in the Pacific collecting emailed pictures of tourists lying on the beach when their boss in New Zealand thinks they are off sick, just in case one of them is fermenting a revolution in Kelburn.
Suddenly the New Zealand spy appears from behind a curtain and sidles over to the table.
"Mass collection is different from mass surveillance," he says. "Can you keep a secret? I am not sure what the difference is either.
"Apparently one means we collect info on everyone but never look at it ourselves, just in case we see something a New Zealander might be doing in Kelburn, while mass surveillance is collecting info on everyone and looking at it to find out what is going on in Kelburn.
"The Prime Minister says it is okay but that we cannot tell anyone what we do because it is soooo secret."
The three spies look at the New Zealand spy and say in unison: "We thought you were our friend. Tell us why you are spying on us."
"Ahem ... yes, you are friends, but if I did not spy on you and you change and become an enemy, I would not know that unless I was spying on you."
-Terry Sarten is a writer, musician and satirista - feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org