In general, I don’t really take Solomani Security all that seriously outside of Confederation borders: it smells too much like the 1940 Gestapo or the 1970s KGB than anything worthy of respect today.
So they placed monitors all across society? Exactly what are these ham-fisted showpieces for? Haven’t they heard of comprehensive internet surveillance yet? All brutal thuggishness and torture, no subtle information management and implicit media framing!
Well, the Russians are getting better at it, when it comes to mass market media manipulation. But frankly, I respect the Chinese security services far more: much like their diplomatic corps, they know their limitations, and do very well within them.
Now, I always imagined the Imperial Intelligence Community to be a feuding, balkanized conflicted mess of competing interests – and that’s just the guys formally tied to the Iridium Throne, never mind the various noble agents, corporate executives, planetary governments major and minor, political and racial movements, etc, etc.!
But there is one thing such a chaotic whirlwind can provide: if it’s baffling to the Imperials, it’s simply incomprehensible to outsiders, including the mind-reading Zhodani and the racially motivated Solomani governments. Without a single neck to slice or a single mind to corrupt, you can never, ever be sure that things will go smoothly.
As an example, let’s take the ending of a recent article from the Observer:
Although our whole Intelligence Community has long treated counterintelligence as an afterthought, NSA’s security problems are unusually serious. Whether the Agency’s present leadership and organization are capable of reforming this mess is something Congress needs to examine without delay.
At bottom, if you’re not willing to take counterintelligence and security seriously, there’s not much point in having intelligence agencies, since you’re giving away your secrets—which were obtained at high cost in treasure and sometimes blood—to your adversaries. Although NSA’s 65-year history with catching moles and keeping its secrets since the Agency’s establishment in 1952 is middling at best, it’s painfully evident that basic security is lacking at present.
It’s welcome news that Washington is finally asking why anyone in the U.S. government is using Russian software for security purposes—especially when Kaspersky has been known for years to possess troubling ties to the Kremlin—but it should be also asked why anybody thought that was a good idea in the first place. Reports that the Pentagon will continue to purchase software that’s been examined by Russian intelligence defy belief and bespeak a fundamental lack of seriousness in Washington about security in the online age. Left unchecked, these systemic shortcomings will cripple our national security and make war more likely—and that we will lose any war that comes.
I will grant, SolSec — and the Zhodani Thought Police — do take counter-intelligence more seriously than the Imperium: but then again, they are also more unified societies, with less tolerance for difference and nonconformity. Still: the Imperial Vilani aren’t slouches in this area – being quite sensitive to irregularities – and no Imperial group would pass up the chance to paint a political enemy as a tool of
the Confederation or the Consulate the Space Nazis and the Mind-Rapists.
It pays for Imperials to do counter-intelligence, not so much in ‘the security of the Throne’ but in ‘the once-in-a-lifetime chance to destroy an enemy’.
Two Decades Later, Algeria Protects Mystery of Bentalha Massacre is the kind of thing I would definitely expect to see in the Imperial Empty Quarter, especially when it’s ‘our bastards’ doing the mass murdering.
From the beginning of the civil war, hardliners in the military junta, known as “eradicators,” had adopted a worse-is-better approach to fighting the Islamist rebellion. After cancelling democratic elections at the beginning of 1992 since they would have brought Islamists to power, top generals were happy to see their enemies radicalize further. They knew that the surest way to undercut the appeal of political Islam was to see it associated with slaughter and mayhem. Led by the regime’s secret police, the feared DRS, Algiers began a clandestine campaign to defeat the radicals from within.
Happily for the junta, there were plenty of jihadists eager to murder in the name of Islam, including a couple thousand Algerians who had recently returned from Afghanistan, where they had fought the Soviets alongside mujahidin from many Muslim countries. Thus was GIA born, and it quickly garnered a reputation for indulging in slaughter for its own sake. By the time of Bentalha massacre, GIA had declared war on all Algerians—keep in mind the country is almost entirely Muslim—who did not support them. It was this bloodthirsty radicalism, aimed at innocent civilians, which caused Al-Qa’ida to withdraw its endorsement from the group in early 1997.
I can’t actually prove that Islam is a descendant of the ancient Aztec religions… but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Blood Vargr taking notes from a respectable distance.
Samraoui’s detailed account is stunning, depicting DRS infiltration of GIA top to bottom from the group’s birth; several top GIA emirs were, in reality, DRS agents, and the jihadists were secretly serving the wishes of the junta—though few of the terrorists knew it. “GIA is the creation of the Algerian security services,” as Samraoui expressed what he had witnessed, concisely.
This reality, shocking to Westerners, is less so to Algerians, who are accustomed to their less-than-democratic rulers, whom they simply call le pouvoir (“the power”), doing nasty and dishonest things at their expense. That the DRS was trained and mentored by Soviet spies during the Cold War provides the final clue. What the junta executed in the 1990s was merely an unusually bloody version of the standard KGB methods of penetration and provocation, without any concern for innocent life.
So, maybe a different bloody religion, the Faith of the Revolution, was the primary factor here.
Does SolSec help out the more radical jihadists – or useful Imperial leaders, local governments, and other assets – with useful pointers and specialized equipment? Not in the 993 Empty Quarter (…but perhaps a century ago, during the Hebrin Rebellion…): it’s just too far to make it worthwhile, except for a few low-stakes, long-shot gambles.
But it is a certainty that they would have agents hooked up to each and every Islamic community within the disputed sectors of the (ongoing in 993) Solomani Rim War!
Two decades later, the massacre remains significantly under-investigated story. Although Algeria’s whole civil war requires a serious examination with a skeptical eye, the Bentalha massacre serves as an ideal microcosm of that mysterious conflict. The list of those uneager to ask questions over the last 20 years is long. The military regime naturally didn’t want anybody investigating the slaughter, which it played a sordid hand in. Neither was France eager to dig deeply, since the last thing it wanted was the collapse of the Algiers junta, which would bring millions of refugees and a jihadist caliphate just across the Mediterranean from Marseille. No less, Washington found it politic to remain incurious, since the Algerian junta, warts and all, has been a reliable partner against the jihadists since the early 1990s.
A dreary fact of life for those mercenaries/soldiers/agents/operatives who actually have a morally semi-decent goal in mind. But maybe… when it doesn’t matter much anymore to the Men who Set the Rules, who already got what they want or already cut their losses and ran… the PCs might arrange for a little justice smite a particularly loathsome character.
But if it happens – and who would ever expect it, really? – deeply satisfying.
Three cheers for fictional universes!
OK, that’s too cynical and – more importantly – a lie: too many Mighty Man and Untouchable Powers have toppled and fallen in my lifetime to dismiss justice in such a dangerously cavalier fashion.
And of course, I know full well that Justice is actually enforced by God: swiftly or slowly, the sword will certainly arrive, and without the mercy of Christ, we all would most certainly be cut down, and tossed to the fire to roast.
So instead, let’s end with a better quote:
Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
Dreams become reality: the spirit moves, and then the flesh.
Three cheers for fictional universes!
For it is, sometimes, the womb of a better reality.