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July 30, 2014

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Chris williams

David Laven has demmonstrated to my satisfaction that the mid C19th Habsburg secret police spent very little time monitoring Italian (etc) nationalists, and lots of time monitoring the administrators of the KuK's empire, in order to make sure that they weren't incompetent, vulnerable to blackmail, or on the take. Might be an antecedent there.

jamie

Oh, yeah, I can see that. There are some parallels with the Polish Sanacja as well http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanation although there it took over the state.

etudiant

Alfred Redl, the head of Hapsburg counter intelligence until 1913, was on the Tsar's payroll, having been blackmailed because of his homosexuality. Clearly the Hapsburg secret police missed a few.

dsquared

CSI: Special Perpetrators Unit

Simstim

BTP: Liverpool Street

ajay

Another parallel: the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption, which was scaring the hell out of people in the territory during the 1980s and 1990s. ("The lights are ALWAYS ON in their offices" I was told in a hushed voice.)

Nick L

In 'The Origins of Political Order', his attempt at being taken seriously as a major scholar, Fukuyama argues that formation of these sort of bodies is a perennial response by non-representative systems of government, which face chronic principal-agent problems. The goal is to create an ultra-loyal parallel bureaucracy that can govern those who are supposed to be governing the imperial domains. But who guards the guardians...?

Another, parallel, innovation noted by Eisenstadt, Mann and Gelner is to cut your elite off from wider society to prevent them from transferring central resources to extended families. Hence eunuchs, celebacy and devisherme. None of which are likely to be that appealing in contemporary China, I would imagine.

dsquared

Totally and unforgivably off topic, but while looking something up in the Aaronovitch Watch archives I was reminded of this perfect piece of High Court Found Poetry, from seminal internet libel case Smith v ADVFN. Justice Eady presents:

On 27 April 2007 Mr Byrne posted the comment
...
"it would appear that a poster called anonamous
has sued several people for calling him names.
He seems like a right cunt".

No defamatory meaning is attached to this

and Mr Byrne denies that it is defamatory.
He argues that it is "the vulgar abuse
that can regularly be encountered on the ADVFN bulletin board".

One has to ask
whether this is the sort of material
that should find its way for resolution into the High Court.

chris y

That is too fucking precious.

ajay

In 'The Origins of Political Order', his attempt at being taken seriously as a major scholar, Fukuyama argues that formation of these sort of bodies is a perennial response by non-representative systems of government, which face chronic principal-agent problems.

The creation of special enforcement bodies to oversee other bits of the government is pretty much universal. Ofsted, HMIP, the Police Complaints Commission, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and so on.

guthrie

Yes, I was just thinking that by that logic, the UK has a non-representative system of government...

Chris Williams

Ofsted, est 1992; HMIC est 1857 but toothless til . . . well, now; IPCC est 2004; Parliamentary Ombudsman est 1954.

Nick L

Well, okay. But bodies like the IPCC don't belong in this category: it provides the appearance of public accountability, it isn't a separate body with functionally similar powers to the police created to ensure the accountability of the regular police to the central authorities.

Ofsted does qualify, its creation was part of a raft of measures to centralise control over the educational system. Over multiple parliaments the Tories have pursued the goal of removing autonomy and independence from teachers and LEAs.

But it's still a long way from creating a whole parallel bureaucracy to monitor and discipline the rest of the state.

Chris williams

Yeah, the relationship between different forms of state authority and audit/reflexive surveillance/oversight/inspection is all very complicated, I accept. But to the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever, forex, thought that MI5 or SB have been tracking Treasury civil servants to make sure they are not on the take, and that's the closest analogy I can think of.

ajay

"But to the best of my knowledge, no-one has ever, forex, thought that MI5 or SB have been tracking Treasury civil servants to make sure they are not on the take, and that's the closest analogy I can think of."

True. But David Green at the SFO has been fairly clear that he sees the SFO's future as being the lead agency for enforcing the Bribery Act, which would include bent civil servants. On the other hand, I agree that there's still a difference; SFO will be doing other things as well, they aren't specifically an anti-bent-civil-servant outfit.

chris y

The number of British civil servants who are bent enough to trouble the SFO is such that if that organisation consisted of John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd and nobody else it would scarcely give them a full time job. So they better be doing other things as well or I want my taxes back.

I believe that in China the situation is somewhat different.

Richard J

The number of British civil servants who are bent enough to trouble the SFO is such that if that organisation consisted of John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd and nobody else it would scarcely give them a full time job.

Wait, are we talking central or local government here? coughPlanningcough.

ajay

If the SFO consisted of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and nobody else, it would probably be considerably more effective than it, in fact, is.

I agree with Richard's point. And don't forget that "bent civil servant" doesn't just mean permanent secretaries taking bungs, which I am ready to believe is pretty rare; it also means a clerk at the DVLA running numberplates for a dodgy private detective, for cash in hand, which I suspect is a bit commoner.

Guano

"It also means a clerk at the DVLA running numberplates for a dodgy private detective, for cash in hand, which I suspect is a bit commoner."

And after the trial of Andy and Becky, are we really any closer to knowing whether anyone is on top of the issues of dodgy private detectives, unauthorised access to government databases, corrupt coppers etc etc?

Chris Williams

Not sure, but HMIC did a themed inspection into police in-house abuse of the PNC about ten years ago. However, that was about unlicensed operators, rather than the Fedorcio remit. Fedorcio himself is out, and ACPO Ltd has been pulled from operational control of anything at all, but I can't detect much of a difference in that department.

Guano

So which of our political representatives do we ask if we want to know if anyone is on top of the issues of dodgy private detectives, unauthorised access to government databases, corrupt coppers etc etc?

Boris Johnson, for example?

Chris Williams

Keith Vaz. Or, if that prospect fills you with ironic dread, Tom Watson? Anne Owers?

Guano

Nick L (earlier in this thread): who guards the guardians?

In a representative system of government it is ultimately the public who guards the guardians. The guardians are supposed to be accountable to the public, through our elected representatives. Unfortunately I doubt whether more than a handful of our elected representatives recognise that and are up to the job.

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