Bletchley park

The philosophical puzzles of the British Socrates

Imagine your donkey and mine graze in the same field. One day I conceive a dislike for my donkey and shoot it: on examining the victim, though, I realise with horror I’ve shot your donkey. Or imagine a slightly different scenario. As before, I draw a bead, but just as I pull the trigger, my donkey – perhaps more invested in this vale of tears than yours – steps out of the firing line and I shoot your donkey. Now here’s the question. When, in either case, I turn up on your doorstep with the remains of your donkey, how should I frame my apology to you? In his 1956

Behind the Five Eyes intelligence alliance

In February 1941 four US officers were landed from a British warship at Sheerness, bundled into vehicles and driven to Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, a large redbrick house amid wartime huts. They were greeted at midnight by the head of Bletchley with sherry, whisky being in short supply. They carried with them a secret device called the Purple Machine, which deciphered previously impregnable Japanese communications. In return, they were given full details of Bletchley’s breaking of the German Enigma cipher. Yet it would be another ten months before the US entered the war. This exchange between two governments of their greatest secrets, with no formal agreement beyond an understanding that they

Behind the veil of secrecy: GCHQ emerges from the shadows

Is it ever possible to truly see inside the heart of another? To divine hidden intentions and the darkest of thoughts? For a long time — before we all became sourly aware of our own computers spying on us like HAL 9000, and flashing ads for haemorrhoid ointments — this godlike omniscience was ascribed to the secret listeners at GCHQ. Above all other intelligence agencies it held a special place in the imaginations of urban paranoiacs. The organisation itself nurtured this sinister reputation by its insistence upon remaining deep in the shadows, even as its siblings MI5 and MI6 boldly came out. Not all that many years ago, simply publishing