Book Review

A peek into the world of intelligence


The four chaptered book, is the list of things Eliza Manningham-Buller wanted to say. These are freedom, intelligence, rule of law and security. Complete with a brief introduction describing her surprise at being invited to speak at the Reith Lectures, the Baroness takes the chance to state her former colleagues were nothing close to the fictional characters portrayed in films, but rather “committed and conscientious, motivated not by large salaries and bonuses but by the importance and value of their work.”

Madam Manningham-Buller writes simply, without jargon. Her subject matter is legendary, obviously because it’s modern world history, and about spies, or spying. And we are all curious about spies. On the famous tag line “war on terror” Madam Eliza writes, “I have never thought if helpful to refer to a ‘war’ on terror, any more than to a war on drugs.”  Considering terrorism a crime as any other, “not an act of war.”

She also manages to give an overview of her thoughts on the situation of the world at the time of going to press, while still being realistic saying, “Life is full of risks and no government can guarantee its citizens’ 100 percent security.”

Manningham-Buller admits the complexity of intelligence, as well as the ethical issues behind the intelligence-gathering process, all the while explaining the reasons behind the value placed on human sources. Governments seek information to help them understand the motivations of terrorists and “may be factored in the development of foreign and domestic policy”.

The rule of law is central to who the former MI5 DG is, given she comes from a family of lawyers, and readily admits that “the Service is answerable to the law”. She frowns upon torture, stating it has not made the world a better place.

Securing Freedom will unhinge the recesses of your mind to understand the point of intelligence, the rule of law, the pillar upon which democracies are built, wars are fought and rights protected.

It’s a simple and rare gem that underscores the value of dialogue, even with our enemies and stresses the point “talking doesn’t mean approval.”