On 27 January Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez, announced that she would disband the country's intelligence agency, its equivalent of MI5 or the FBI.
With Fernandez, the move may be just because the agency had helped a prosecutor who accused Fernandez of covering up the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. She says she will set up a new agency.
The idea is good, though. We all want someone to keep an eye out for people who give signs that they may bomb or shoot up community centres, shops, or newspaper offices. But that doesn't need to be done by a secretive agency outside democratic control.
In the 1970s Labour prime minister Harold Wilson suspected that MI5 was "bugging" his office. A book by a former MI5 agent published in 1987 (in Australia, because MI5 got it banned in Britain) confirmed the story. MI5 denies it, but MI5's official history admits that MI5 kept a file on Wilson.
A 2013 book reported how MI5 has operated surveillance on many people in literature and the arts, such as W H Auden, Ewan MacColl, Joan Littlewood, Arthur Koestler, George Orwell.
Since 2009 the Government has placed obligations on UK communication service providers to retain data from everyone — whom we phone, text and email and much more — for 12 months. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which has gone through its stages in the Commons and is now at an advanced stage in the House of Lords, will increase surveillance powers even further.
The secret state apparatus allows for torture and mistreatment as well as surveillance.
On 30 January, Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, became the latest of a string of US officials to confirm that the CIA used a base in British-ruled Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean islands from which Britain evicted the entire population in 1968-73) for rendition and torture.
Disband the spooks!