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The Word on the Week

Spying Today

In former times spying was confined to listening to other people’s conversation from behind the door. Alternatively reading someone else’s mail was a way to elicit private information.

In fact my father, having served in WW1 was reckoned to be too old to fight in WW2 but was assigned to a UK government unit in charge of censorship.

Again the tools employed were pretty basic. They consisted of random sampling of post and listening to telephone conversations. The censoring operated when any comments written or spoken occurred regarding troop movements etc. Letters were marked with black ink blotting out the passages deemed to be of use to the enemy and the envelope stamped with the insignia of the Unit. Telephone conversations were interrupted and the callers left in no doubt that the slogan “loose talk costs lives” applied to them.

With the advent of the digital age, data, written or spoken, is easily stored and the parts thought to be interesting can be retrieved with the appropriate computer programs. We discovered from Edward Snowden, the US Government whistleblower just how extensively this was being done in the US and now how similar operations are being carried out in other developed countries.

Last week we learned from a German newspaper that the UK spy agency CGHQ had for years been tapping our cables under the Irish Sea. This was being done without the knowledge of the owners of the cables and may have triggered the passing of a Bill in the Dail outlining the circumstances when calls can be legally tapped. There is also, for the first time in Ireland, provision for secret courts which could be used to pressurise telecommunications companies to disclose confidential information.

We have come a long way from listening behind the door!

What has the Bible to say about this legalised skulduggery?

When something is done in secret there is usually a betrayal of loyalties involved. And so it was when Judas left the Last Supper. The other disciples thought he had been sent to buy food for the Feast or, because he was in charge of the money, to give to the poor (St John Chapter 13 verses 28/30).

It was in the garden of Gethsemane when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss that what had been planned in secret with the chief priests and elders was revealed.

But a greater plan had already been worked out in the councils of eternity. This plan not only foretold Judas’ betrayal (Psalm 41 verse 9) but predicted Jesus’ work of salvation from before creation (Genesis 3 verse 15 and Ephesians 1 verse 4).

This puts man’s spying in the halfpenny place. The divine will of our triune God will accomplish all that He purposes in bringing “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2 verse 10).

Our task is to examine ourselves to ensure that we are part of that plan and not be behind the door but openly confess Jesus as Saviour and Lord (2Corinthians 13 verse 5).