Intelligence: March 6, 2004

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Britain has decided to expand it's domestic espionage agency; MI-5. There is no real American equivalent to MI-5, which is more like the CIA, but only operates inside the United Kingdom and its overseas territories (MI-6 operates outside the country). MI-5 has had it's budget increased 50 percent, and it is now trying to hire nearly a thousand new analysts, clerks and "surveillance specialists." MI-5 has long concentrated on tracking down foreign spies and local terrorists. But in the last two decades, international terrorism has become more of a problem. Television shows depicting MI-5 operatives in a favorable light have no doubt helped recruiting, with some 3,000 young men and women responding to a recent call for candidates. But MI-5 has high standards, even if the pay is not all that great (about $30,000 a year to start.) Only one or two percent of those 3,000 applicants will make it through the screening and training process. But young Britons have become acutely aware of the terrorist threat, and MI-5 expects it will have no problem recruiting 300 people a year for the next three years. Britain has always been a favorite haunt for terrorists in Europe, as Britain is the only European nation that does not require people to carry "their papers" (personal identification) at all times. Britain is less of a "police state" than other European nations, and terrorists and criminals have found it easier to operate, at least as long as they stay out of trouble. For those same reasons, Britain has also become a favorite destination for refugees fleeing wars, or economic hardship, in other countries. Unfortunately, many of these refugees are Moslem and some of them are pro-al Qaeda. There have already been many arrests of terrorists in Britain, and beefing up MI-5 is seen as a way to get a better sense of how bad the terrorist problem is. Otherwise, the bombs might start going off, leaving the police to start their investigations with little knowledge of who the bad guys are. MI-5's main job is to keep the government, and the police, well informed about what threats, if any, are out and about in Britain.

 


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