I read the obituary of Bill Miller in the Guardian (25 November), and the note from Lewis Rudd on the 15th Dec.  Bill Miller and Paul Thompson were imprisoned while Oxford students for breaches of the Official Secrets Act – that is, they wrote in Isis about dangerous antics employed by British forces, which could have triggered a nuclear exchange. At that time we were all shit-scared about the possibility of nuclear war; we had seen deeply disturbing photographic coverage of the effects of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima  bombs on places and on the human body.  We carried these images in our heads: we were afraid it might all happen again, but ten times worse, and to us. It’s difficult even to remember how disturbed we all were. Now we are inured to it, but the possibility of nuclear weapons being used by some state on another, or by terrorists who have got lucky, remains a present danger.

I remember Bill being indignant about newspaper reports which had him going into court wearing a red tie: he hadn’t worn one of course, but that conveniently put a “”Commie Bastard” marker on him.  That hasn’t changed: the equivalent newspapers are still happy to push lies to make a sneaky point. The other thing which hasn’t changed is the concept of the Official Secret..  The material Bill and Paul set out was already public,  well known in some circles – their crime was that they had sworn not to reveal what was already public knowledge. Nowadays, given the Internet, something can only be awarded Official Secret status when everybody knows it. If an English Flying Saucer freak hacker
could gallop all around the Pentagon’s secret files, leaving signed footprints as he went, who can believe that the serious boys hadn’t been there already, carefully wiping their prints before leaving?

16 Dec 2009

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