Intelligence in War: The value–and limitations–of what the military can learn about the enemy/John Keegan

Many, many trees. Many of them. A whole lot. Trees, trees and more trees. More than enough. Too many.

Very little forest. Not enough (more’s the pity, as he arrives at the correct conclusions ).


Transcript: Kate Atkinson

Oh my! Didn’t this one surreptitiously infiltrate onto my device clandestinely. I don’t remember ever having heard of this author, much less installing it on my device.

Oh my! Erudition! Intelligence! Bon mots! Clever turns of phrase! A superb sense of time and place!

And of course, the sublime Juliet Armstrong: orphan, romantic, thief, inveterate liar, unhappy virgin, free with her charms, spy, loyal friend, completely selfish, spunky, devil may care, murderess [yes, that’s a spoiler, but Ms Atkinson saves a much larger surprise ending that I had not one iota was coming].

Superb bibliography. With the ‘right’ books (my grad degree is in the History of Intelligence during this time period, so I know which ones are which).

I sincerely hope Ms Atkinson will see fit to provide me with an invitation to be part of Juliet Armstrong’s fascination life again.

I’ll be waiting.

Juliet….Juliet…wherefore art thou?

The Swiss Spy: Alex Gerlis

It took until my e-reader told me I had read 73% of the book to understand why Gerlis bothered writing this book at all.

The historical facts are well known, leaving no suspense. The writing is bland and expository. The characters are such cardboard cutouts I frequently had to thumb backwards to remember who was who.

Then, finally, at the 73% mark the titular protagonist performs the one decent act in the book, which naturally marks him for death.

So I guess that’s the purpose: spying is a nasty, dirty business that can only end in misery and death. Much like this book.

Invasion of Privacy: Christopher Reich


There is nothing egregiously “bad” about this book; it’s just that there’s nothing “good. Everything here is pedestrian, the author choosing the first readily available cultural and social tropes that come to mind.

If this were an audio book, it’d come with the blurb, “Now available in stereo(type).


Get the State out of my smartphone

Marni Soupcoff: Get the state out of my smartphone

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Marni Soupcoff | March 9, 2015 | Last Updated: Mar 10 11:51 AM ET
More from Marni Soupcoff | @soupcoff

While I was shuffling along in an airport security line last week, I had my phone out and was reading about the case of a Quebec man who refused to give his Blackberry password to border agents in Halifax. The traveler, 38-year-old Alain Philippon, was coming home from a trip to the Dominican Republic at the time. He has since been charged with hindering a customs official. And if he is found guilty of the offence, he could spend a year in jail and be fined $25,000.

My sense of outrage over the story was starting to peak just as I reached my turn at the scanner. I quickly shoved my phone into my purse and dumped it into a bin, then clumsily attempted to remove my boots and extricate my laptop from its bag at the same time; I eventually landed my remaining belongings on the conveyor belt with only two losses of balance and pushed the whole lot down the line towards the X-ray machine.

I had passed through the body scanner and was still mentally chewing on Mr. Philippon’s predicament when my laptop apparently alarmed and one of the security agents asked if he could swab it.

I didn’t think twice before nodding and barely noticed when he gave it back. I was too busy zipping up my boots with one hand.

Montreal man crosses U.S. border showing just iPad scan of passport
Security screening and border control have different ends and are governed by different law, but my being completely unfazed by the spectre of all my things and even my body being scanned, swabbed and scrutinized is still a helpful contrast in the exercise of trying to understand why Mr. Philippon’s case is so troubling.

It’s one thing for authorities to open our bags and look for physical stuff, whether that stuff be illegal drugs, dangerous weapons, or undeclared Coach handbags on which taxes are due.

It’s quite another thing for authorities to demand entry into our thoughts and relationships.

Obviously smartphones do not equal our minds and consciousness, but in a lot of ways, they are the closest physical manifestations of those things in existence. They carry evidence of our friends, our habits, our doubts, our diets, our weaknesses, our triumphs and our curiosities. I’m (reluctantly) willing to concede to border agents the ability to rifle through my underwear to make sure I haven’t smuggled in an illegal substance, but I’m not willing to allow them the ability to check whether the last thing I Googled before approaching them was a strident libertarian manifesto or cute Tom Hiddleston photos. Or both.

It’s hard to imagine many places housing more such intimate details than a smartphone
Nor do I think Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is ready to grant border agents that ability either. Section 8 states: “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.” When parsing what that means, courts have explained that Canadians have a reasonable expectation of privacy in information that tends to reveal intimate details of their lifestyles and personal choices.

When you consider the sort of records an individual’s BlackBerry might hold on his dating history and sexual preferences, his political leanings and voting choices, his family ties and feuds, it’s hard to imagine many places housing more such intimate details than a smartphone. There’s an extremely strong privacy interest in the email trails and search histories that lie therein.

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So while there’s no question a border agent has the legal authority to search a phone or computer in the sense of examining and probing its physical properties — the equivalent of the scanning and swabbing of my laptop that left me indifferent at the airport — it’s absurd to pretend that this authority naturally extends to the ideas and records contained on that phone or computer.

Given that the Supreme Court has already demonstrated — in the context of criminal investigations — that it understands and appreciates this distinction, Mr. Philippon has a strong Charter challenge to make when he appears in court in the spring. It will be a service to all Canadians if he chooses to make it.

National Post
Marni Soupcoff is executive director of the Canadian Constitutional Foundation (