TO WRITE ABOUT the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation at length, when it is an agency which shields itself from scrutiny and is licensed to practice deception is a fairly tough assignment – writing about the unknowable – but these difficulties don’t stop us. We are able to know some things about ASIO and to conduct some sort of investigation and considering that its budget has been increased to $337 million, its new Central Office costing $600 million is about to open, its workforce is rising to 1,800, and the organisation is seeking wider powers, I think it’s timely.
Telling my friends about my essay brought much paranoia humour. I had my own paranoid moment – I was writing the essay in a flat in Brisbane as a fellow at the Centre for Excellence in Policing and Security at Griffith University. Over the last few months my Swiss Army watch had become erratic (that’s not like the Swiss, I thought) – and I bought a new battery on the advice of the watchmaker, but it was still erratic, so I took it off and put it in the desk while deciding what to do with my old friend. As I wrote the essay there in the flat my computer begun to play up, flashing on and off, getting lost on the way to a command, a day’s work disappeared. Ah, I said, ASIO has tracked me down and the dirty tricks department is giving me some discouragement. Next day, I booted up and the computer seemed to be back to normal. I picked up my watch and found it was telling the right time. Every watch tells the right time twice a day, I said. A few hours later it was still correct and now months later it is working perfectly. What had happened was this: ASIO, while playing tricks with my computer with some sort of electronic beam to send me mad, had unintentionally, collaterally, as they say at ASIO, fixed my watch.
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