Secret State

An interview with ‘C’

The outgoing ‘C’ gave an interview to the FT:

“So Alex, you’ve been at the service for 30 years, 30 years of being a spy, and then a chief spy. What is the reality of life as a spy?

I think that there is a big intellectual curiosity thing. I mean, our job is asking questions a bit like yours. Every day you are learning something new. Frankly, it’s just fascinating. And then there’s the business of espionage, which is pretty esoteric. But the irony is it’s done in plain sight. It’s done amongst normal life.

So, you know, unlike soldiers who are on a battlefield and know there’s a war going on, our work takes place in pubs and bars and supermarkets and shopping malls. And it’s a curious juxtaposition. And sometimes it can lead to a sort of loneliness within the crowd. Sometimes it can be exhilarating.

On a personal level, when I was serving in the Middle East we were seeking to get inside an organisation that was proliferating nuclear weapons. And I had to go and approach someone and talk to them. And we did it in a shopping mall. And as I went up to this person I realised I was in familiar environments and had been in that place with my children the weekend before, so I’d gone from talking about Pingu to talking about proliferation. And it’s just… it’s an extraordinary contrast. And it is… it’s intrinsically interesting and satisfying.

Worth a watch, only 6 minutes: