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The shoot-down was intended to destroy a tank aboard the craft holding kilograms of a toxic fuel called hydrazine. The Defense Department says officials should have confirmation that the fuel tank was fragmented within 24 hours. The Pentagon says debris from the satellite will begin to enter Earth's atmosphere immediately, and most will burn up within 24 to 48 hours.

Remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days. Pacific Command Admiral Tim Keating, who spoke at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu shortly before the missile launch, said officials are monitoring the debris situation closely. We don't think the hydrazine container is going to hit.

Vaux is asked to come in the from the cold and hunt down the traitorous double agent. In a once-glamorous city still reeling from civil war and the aftermath of heavy Israeli bombardments, Vaux finds his own agency at odds with itself. Michael Vaux is out of the game. The ex-journalist and occasional MI6 agent is happy—house-sitting in Tangier for an ex-girl friend.


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A high-ranking operative of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] wishes to defect, promising to give information to MI6 that could prevent a series of terrorist bombings and kidnappings. But after their only contact with the would-be defector is assassinated on the Paris to Madrid Francisco de Goya night train, Vaux finds himself combing the winding, narrow streets of old Tangier while butting heads with an idealistic CIA officer.

His former employers offer to forgive all past misdeeds in return for his accepting a special assignment: Nessim Said, the Syrian scientist, is shot dead in the quiet English village where he had been sent with Vaux for a few days of relaxation and surreptitious debriefings. Being secret, there is room for the abuse of power by organisations devoted to surveillance, and this is also sometimes a theme.

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While competition between the West and the Eastern block was the major international reality, spy stories mostly presented the Russian KGB as the enemy. Some of these works are probably better described as belonging to the sub genre of international intrigue than being strictly about espionage.

Spy stories focus on the secret world and therefore tend to deal with state sponsored espionage or counter espionage, rather than the free enterprise variety, but the boundaries between these are permeable, in fiction as in life. Some commentators suggested that the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union would mean the end of the spy story. This has not proved to be the case, though it may have seen the end of the traditional kind of spy story.

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Another recent book, The Constant Gardener , is about corruption and exploitation by a multi national corporation in Africa, and fits better into the international intrigue category. Changes in technology are also changing the nature of spying, spies and spy stories. Up till the middle of the twentieth century, the arms race between the great powers made it worth while for spies to go to a lot of trouble to find out about technological developments in weapons and about the military plans of other countries.

But this is now increasingly done through satellite or electronic surveillance, interception of communications, computer hacking and the like.

VOA Standard English - US Missile Shoots Down Wayward Spy Satellite

Certainly no spy now could usefully memorise the British naval disposition in the event of war as in The Thirty-Nine Steps , or take civilian photos of siege guns at Toulon as in Epitaph for a Spy. Nevertheless, new technology is changing the nature of the spy story. The hero is a junior analyst from the CIA, motivated by high minded patriotism. The new world order that emerged from the shattering of the old East verus West divide is also contributing to the development a rather different sort of espionage story in Britain, and a new generation of writers.

In place of the manoeuvres of two or three large secret bureaucracies engaged in internal conflict and in competition with each other, recent British writers deal with conflicts all over the globe, where there is urgent need for operational information, and often little in place by way of established spy networks.

The books of these writers are also in the tradition of action thrillers and certainly action and suspense are often more important than the mystery, or puzzle around which many earlier spy stories were written.

US Missile Shoots Down Wayward Spy Satellite

It could perhaps be argued that as spy stories came to prominence with the rise of the nation state, globalisation will put an end to them. But the dominance of a single world power, the USA, has not stopped conflict between states, or within them, in ways that threaten global security. The world of international politics continues to be rent with competition and conflict, and where this is so, there will always be espionage, surveillance, spying and counter spying.

And as the world has good reason to know, the existence of large, secret bureaucracies has not been able to counter significant terrorist activities by a variety of radical and religious organisations which stand outside the borders of the traditional nation state.

The Wayward Spy

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