We’ve all seen the movies and read the books about the covert antics of the MI5. Anybody watching the brilliant drama series ‘Spooks’ may believe that is a clear insight into the secret British organisation. Agents under cover, terrorist plots foiled, the day saved by wicked spy gadgets seem to be all in a day’s work for members of the elite top secret organisation. Is this really all just fiction though? Could your next door neighbour, a co-worker or even a member of your own family be working for the MI5? Even if they were you’d never get to find out as agent’s identities (or to give them their official title ‘Covert Human Intelligence Sources’) are heavily protected by the MI5, even when they no longer work for the agency.
I am sure the series touches on real events, and possible future events, however just how accurate to the real MI5 this series portrays could only be answered by MI5, and that theory we will never know. In a recent episode a gentleman’s finger – ring worn by Sir Harry James Pearce, Head of the Counter-Terrorism dept and played by Peter Firth shook hands with Al Qaeda’s number three which left traces of radioactive particles on his hands which could then be tracked to street level for a limited time. I seriously doubt this kind of technology is available just yet, however tracking devices the MI5 use will never be found on any website or be available to the public domain.
MI5 only ever used to recruit highly intelligent individuals from universities or word of mouth for example, but in today’s moving times, MI5 have more recently recruited through much broader media like radio and national newspapers. The training the MI5 undertake is no different (if not higher expectations) and the olive branch advertising to a broader field means the MI5 could find the right applicant they would never normally of found.
Isn’t it about time we all knew what really goes on inside this organisation?
Absolutely not! If this were to happen, then our national security would seriously be jeopardised. MI5 agents are highly trained, highly skilled individuals making up one of the most elite secret organisations in British history and help keep our country safe. Nobody will ever know the true extent of this fasinating organisation.
What is the MI5?
The MI5 make up just one cell of the umbrella security services operating throughout the UK and overseas. The MI5 is responsible for protecting the UK against threats to national security and is based in Thames House in London.
What does a Spook look like? How can I be one?
Agents working for the MI5 are gathered from many different ethnics and backgrounds with the sole purpose of upholding and protecting the country. You may be reading this and already have the right qualities and attributes to become a successful spook so the first thing you need to do is contact them for a vetting process. Upon an extensive inital vetting process should you be successful, you will be required to strip your own identity and personality and undertake many further weeks of intensive training from a variety of skill challenges involving both physical and physiological examinations. Although the pay for an MI5 agent is average, the additional in-house benefits and security when leaving the service make up a good package but if joining the MI5 is all about the need for money then you have already failed. Joining one of the best covert services in the world should primarly be about self-satisfaction although you can only share that joy in-house.
So, the next time you see a p*ss soaked tramp on the underground of Londons tube stations, remember..it could be you!
What are we being protected from?
Espionage – Espionage is the process of a foreign agent obtaining information which is not available to the public through using surveillance equipment and other spy techniques. An agent may also aim to influence key people to make decisions which benefit a foreign nation. Agents from the MI5 need to know about any espionage activities by countering the threat through spying on suspected agents from other foreign organisations.
Terrorism – As a result of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 terrorism has become a worldwide threat. As well as extremist groups such as Al Qaeda there is also a threat of splinter cells from other hardcore organisations. Other groups who the MI5 monitor include Scottish and Welsh nationalists, right-wing and left-wing extremists and animal rights extremists.
Sabotage – The term sabotage is defined as the process of deliberately harming an enemy by disrupting normal operations. If anyone is planning to sabotage the UK’s interests then the MI5 will intercept and see to it that they don’t!
How do they do it?
Protecting the UK from espionage, terrorism and sabotage is certainly no easy job. But just how do the MI5 keep us unsuspecting citizens of the UK safe? Well, the MI5 work closely with a number of different highly skilled and active organisations such as the Police, MI6 and GCHQ to help them with their investigations and surveillance.
Gathering Intelligence is one of the most important processes the MI5 undertake, after all, without intelligence the MI5 wouldn’t get very far. By investigating individuals who they suspect of getting up to no good, the MI5 can obtain and analyse information (or intelligence) to see the level of threat. Once the evidence is gathered by using surveillance equipmentand other methods, it is then processed so the MI5 can then form counters to the posed threats. The MI5 liaise with the Government to make them aware of any threats and advise them on the best ways to take action.
Secret Intelligence offers the means of tracking and monitoring exactly what unscrupulous individuals or organisations may be up to. Publicly available intelligence is all very well but if someone is plotting a major terrorist plan then encrypted coded messages networked through websites by equally skilled groups means the MI5 have a huge task. By continually monitoring certain people’s activities with surveillance equipmentand techniques, the MI5 can obtain vital knowledge on what exactly these people and organisations are planning, who their key players are, how they operate and how much damage they are capable of. Once they know how bad a threat is, they can prioritise the risk and launch an appropriate counter response.
A leaked dossier revealed at least 15 major plots against the UK are currently active and the MI5 may have the ability to foil most, but it only takes just 1 successful plot like the 7/7 and Britain is again heading towards the mercy of die-hard organisations.
What they don’t do.
Is the MI5 really as exciting as it sounds? Saving the country from terrorist threats, intercepting corrupt organisations and dealing with extremist groups seems to be all in a day’s work on TV shows such as Spooks. But is MI5 really like it is on TV?
The MI5 undertake assassinations – The MI5 do not assassinate people, no matter how problematic an individual may be and in fact, many MI5 officers are unarmed.
The Head of MI5 in the 1960s was actually a Russian spy – Thankfully this story is false. If MI5 Head Sir Roger Hollis had been a Russian spy, the MI5 would have to engage a serious look at their recruitment process.
The MI5 helps terrorists by publishing information – The MI5 came under scrutiny after publicising certain information on its website which was thought to have been advantageous to terrorists. If the MI5 were merrily publishing information on their website which was helpful to terrorists then they would be undermining their organisation somewhat. The information on the website is unclassified and wouldn’t give terrorists anything to go on.
The MI5 plotted to undermine Harold Wilson – Former MI5 officer turned writer Peter Wright claimed such a plot took place in his book Spycatcher. After much investigation it was concluded that no such actions were ever plotted. With his cover blown, Wright confessed his account was unreliable on the TV show Panorama.
There is a certain type of person who becomes a terrorist – Unfortunately things just aren’t that straight forward. A report published by the MI5 in August 2008 highlighted how, after much research, there are no defining characteristics which make up a typical British terrorist. The report concluded that people who become terrorists “are a diverse collection of individuals, fitting no single demographic profile, nor do they all follow a typical pathway to violent extremism”.
If you know of any other myths about the MI5 or if you have any stories or rumours about what the Security Service get up to – let us know below!
In the mean time if you fancy a bit of espionage then check out our huge range of spy gadgets and surveillance equipmentin our shop.