December 29, 2006

THE WEAKEST ISM:

SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH BRITISH AUTHOR FREDERICK FORSYTH: "They Take The Mind, and What Emerges is Just Tapioca Pudding": Frederick Forsyth talks about researching intelligence activities for his new novel, "The Afghan" -- as well as western torture methods in Afghanistan and who would have killed Litvinenko if he had written the plot. (Der Spiegel, 12/29/06)
SPIEGEL: Mr. Forsyth, at the beginning of your new thriller "The Afghan," an al-Qaida member is eliminated when he uses his cell phone and is immediately located by American intelligence services. Do you own a cell phone?

Forsyth: No, and I don't own a computer either. I'm obviously much mocked for being such a dinosaur, but I have my reasons. With my typewriter I've never sent seven chapters into cyberspace and lost them. Secondly, try hacking into my typewriter ... (Chuckles). I also don't use the Internet for searches, because frankly I don't trust it.

SPIEGEL: Despite all your skepticism you have used the Internet for marketing purposes. One year ago you auctioned off six names in your new book on eBay.

Forsyth: Yes, I got about 100,000 pounds (€149,000) for different charities. Cpt. Michael Linnett, the special forces officer in the race through the wilderness, is actually a businessman in Northamptonshire, for example. [...]

SPIEGEL: In "The Afghan," a British intelligence office Mike Martin passes himself off as a Pashtun and successfully infiltrates al-Qaida. Isn't it possible to imagine the opposite also happening? Or did the era of double agents and moles finish with the end of the Cold War?

Forsyth: You might find a communist, but probably not an Islamic fanatic. We are now more trustworthy because you're unlikely to find an al-Qaida member in the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, the German intelligence agency) or French intelligence. The presumption is much easier to make that we're going to get loyalty and therefore reliability.

SPIEGEL: In your book, the undercover agent Martin is warned against clean-shaven Muslims who smoke, drink and sleep with women, westernized human chameleons who hide their hate. You don't believe that al-Qaida sympathizers could infiltrate Western intelligence agencies?

Forsyth: Well they could, but it would be very noticeable. In the 1930s we had a rise of dictators in Europe, and many young people came to the view that democracy was decadent and weak and cowardly. That was the propaganda of Communism, and the (British spies for the Soviets) Macleans, Burgesses and Philbys fell for it. I don't think many people are falling for al-Qaida. The re-establishment of the first caliphate? The reconquista of all southern Europe by Islamic forces? It would be hard to persuade a German that this is the future. Even if he did convert to Islam inside the BND, I think his colleagues would notice. Wahhabism is the core behind the anger and the rage and hatred that a lot of Muslim extremists feel towards us. I don't see how that would affect a middle-class European.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 29, 2006 12:10 AM
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