Only a few weeks into the latest round of horrors in Syria, we are getting used to the debasement of “intelligence” to serve the crudest political ends. In September, President Hollande showed the U.N. secretary general and journalists round the French military intelligence HQ at Creil north of Paris, where the amazed visitors admired the big screens showing Syria, Mali, and other hot spots monitored by the DRM’s satellites. Every schoolboy knows nowadays that the headquarters of the Russian secret service, the FSB, is just outside the Moscow ring road by the Warsaw Highway. After Mr. Snowden’s revelations, secrecy as well as privacy seems to be becoming history and, as the French say, “nous sommes tous surveillés.”
The choreography of decloaking has been rapid. In 1990 Norman Schwarzkopf brought us military video as entertainment. The Balkan wars showed how secret reports could terrify and blackmail leaders of small countries. Mysterious attacks on civilians could force the diplomatic pace. Single, dramatic weapons discharges turned policy nicely.
One mortar burst was definitely not very much like another when carried out by covert-action commandos. It ceased to matter that the truth could not be concealed for long. Public attention is limited and impatient for novelty.