I don’t usually reveal top secret information on this site. But here, exclusively, I want to talk about the Welsh Secret Service.
You’re going to tell me you’ve never heard of it. You’re going to say you can’t find it on the internet. That’s right. Unlike sloppy, indiscreet outfits such as the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), or the CIA, the Welsh Secret Service has no web-site. It is far too discreet for that. Its agents, all trained in the ancient Welsh martial art of Llap Goch, operate from their secret base in the craggy, spectacular mountains of North Wales under cover of total deniability.
The Most Powerful Intelligence Agency
What makes the Welsh Secret Service the most powerful intelligence agency on the planet? Its most remarkable achievement is this: no-one has ever been able to prove it exists.
How do the Welsh keep such a global, deadly intelligence agency secret? The answer is that their influence is so all-powerful that they are able ruthlessly to conceal all trace of their activities. Their tradecraft makes Mossad, MI6 and the CIA look like amateurs.
That lack of evidence highlights the power of the Welsh Secret Service. It also sheds light on the conspiracy theories that poison so much modern political debate.
Why Secret Services are Secret
People are fascinated by secret services. Some are more secret than others. Back in 2010, when I was ambassador in Kyiv, Ukraine, I wrote a blog called “I can burn your face”. I expressed my admiration for the Dutch secret service, the AIVD. What makes the AIVD remarkable? Here’s one thing: you’ve never heard of them.
If you’re a “secret” service, flying under the radar sounds exemplary. Even as an “indoctrinated” diplomat, I’d never even heard of the AIVD until I saw references to them in a show by an artist at the Tate Modern. UK intelligence operatives used to be anonymous, too. Despite dozens of James Bond books and movies, the British government did not admit the existence of the Secret Intelligence Service until 1994.
Top Secret Services: Enter the Welsh
Then, a few years ago, a journalist in Istanbul told me about the Welsh Secret Service. Dai Llewellyn1, a long-time Turkey-watcher and world authority on conspiracy theories, said that when people accused him of being a spy, he’d say he worked for the Welsh Secret Service. When people said they’d never heard of it, he told them that showed its quality.
The comment by Llewellyn highlights a paradoxical feature of conspiracy theories: the greater the absence of evidence for the existence of a conspiracy, the more certain those who believe in it become that it exists. It is this logic that makes the Welsh Secret Service the most powerful on earth. Operating from their secret Snowdonia base, eschewing websites, parliamentary oversight or acknowledgement, they strike terror into the enemies of the Principality.
Facts, Evidence and Conspiracy Theories
Let’s explore that. Suppose you hear the rumour that the Welsh Secret Service is plotting, say, to build an impenetrable wall along the entire length of the border with England. Alarmed at this news2, you search for clues to the existence of the Welsh Secret Service, and of the impenetrable-wall-project.
You can find no evidence of either.
But instead of concluding that neither the Welsh Secret Service nor the planned wall are real, the absence of evidence convinces you that that the WSS must be fearsome and all-powerful. The wall, too, must be an extraordinary, closely-guarded secret . The lack of any evidence of either actually strengthens your belief in both.
Diplomats and Conspiracy Theories
If enough people say something often enough, even rational people may eventually start to believe them. As the author Richard Powers has argued, people “mistake agreement for truth”.
When crazy ideas take hold inside the heads of influential people on whom we depend to keep our society safe – such as politicians or political activists – very bad things may happen.
Given a choice between a conspiracy and a cock-up to explain an event, most diplomats tend to assume the latter. This belief system is echoed by Sod’s Law – the adage that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” and what Wikipedia calls “the simple existential observation that life is full of unpredictable events” – in the vernacular, shit happens. There is also the elegant Hanlon’s Razor: “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.
But just because conspiracy theories seem silly doesn’t mean they aren’t deadly dangerous for political stability, and humanity’s ability to keep itself safe. I shall explore some of these themes in detail, soon.
Warning: Don’t Search for the Welsh Secret Service
I’m proud of my Welsh heritage, including my great great grandfather, R J Derfel. I wouldn’t do anything to put at risk the agents of the Welsh Secret Service.
So let me give you a warning.
If you ever attempt to prove the existence of the Welsh Secret Service, they will track you down. Have you ever met anyone who admitted to being a member of the Service, or who even knew about its work? QED. This warning was their condition for allowing me to publish this blog.
The Welsh Secret Service and Conspiracy Theories
Next time someone advances a plausible-sounding conspiracy theory without providing hard evidence to support it, ask yourself: could this be baseless nonsense?
Could whatever you seek to explain actually be the work of the secret operatives of the all-powerful Welsh Secret Service?
Or should you ask for evidence and facts before you believe what people are telling you?
What to do next
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