There are many ways to recruit a spy. Certainly too many to cover in an article such as this. It really depends on who the particular intelligence agency is looking for, which organization, and what its objective is. It will come as no surprise that some methods are more or less well publicized than others. For SIS in particular, given that the organization did not officially exist until 1994, many of the methods used for recruitment are, for obvious reasons, still closely guarded secrets. Graduate recruitment is one thing, but developing a potential (currently operational) agent is another, especially if they are already in full time professional employment or indeed, working for another intelligence agency.
The PR stance at the moment may well be to promote a progressive, modern image, and in many ways it most definitely is. However, the traditional ‘tap on the shoulder’ approach was really symptomatic of a desire to retain control of the recruitment process. To that end, things have not really changed. SIS has, and always will be, more cautious about the ‘walk in’ candidate and will have entirely different, and more complex, processes in place to evaluate such a person. Furthermore, the complex recruitment cycle is now refined to the point where SIS can recruit individuals without them even knowing. Now that’s surely the recruiters’ holy grail. As with all things ‘intelligence’ orientated, there is a constant focus on resources and purchasing power. SIS needs to maximise the value of each pound spent and therefore, long and complex targeting of individuals used to gain information, has to be considered against the costs of recruiting those intelligence officers charged with interpreting that information. So, in essence, a balancing act in the same way as any other modern-day commercial organisation. Let’s not forget however, that despite the budget allocated by the Intelligence Committee and oversight of section 5, 6 and GCHQ, there are still relatively few intelligence officers out there. Especially in the ever-changing competitive world of private intelligence agencies and their corporate counterparts which compounds the problems caused by the brain drain and external temptations.
SIS Chief Alex Younger said in his speech at St Andrews that “If you think you can spot an MI6 officer, you are mistaken. It doesn’t matter where you are from. If you want to make a difference and you think you might have what it takes, then the chances are that you do have what it takes, and we hope you will step forward.” Clearly this is a nod to the future and the recognition that with Espionage 4.0 around the corner, intelligence agencies need to invest now and allow time for the training and development of new individuals. Individuals that could take two or more years to develop before assuming roles of increased responsibility and clout. This is the likely reason and not, as some cynics have suggested, merely PR propaganda developed for the benefit of our adversaries to suggest that UK intelligence is growing. The argument here being that even if the funds are not available, and even if the organisation is cutting costs, creating the illusion that the funds are there is just as effective.
So far the common denominator is money. Whether it is the level of funding, or the maximisation of value for each pound spent. Mr Younger’s comments clearly pushes ideology as a motivator and driver for potential candidates, and one can hardly blame him. Let’s face it, it would be hard for SIS to push the financial incentive when faced with free market competition. So, it is a given that the organisation has to, regardless of whether it is true or not, sell the notion of ‘making a difference’ as the key driver. So, enter the ‘buddhist spy’ i.e. someone who has forsaken all desires of financial or materialistic rewards in favour of….that little bit more. Here, the idea that freedom is power is never more true, but by god it’s a tough one to find, especially in the younger recruits. Money can never be the sole motivator in this profession, but the complexities of life, youth, character and practical issues, means it simply is important. One cannot really attribute this simply to youth either. Yes, the younger recruits may well be ambitious and dazzled at the prospect of financial reward, but then again so is the 42 year old married man with three children. So its not that. Indeed, the tap on the shoulder system which focussed on the Oxbridge folk probably worked largely because they were the elite and on the whole from upper middle class affluent backgrounds where they always has the family vault to nudge open in times of desperation. Ironically, this student and the buddhist spy are similar in that they are both free from financial pressures thereby making them more effective.
So, they key thread to pull from the above is that there is power to be had from the freedom of external influences. Without wanting to drift down the spiritual or philosophical road too much, a successful spy in todays world could be the one who can happily remove any influence, both positive or negative. In the case of the honey trap, it would be rendered useless if the person did not attribute so much influence to sex. In the case of financial reward, bribery or extortion, if one truly has zero desire for money then it is powerless. In the case of power itself, if one is sufficiently self confident to the point where the affirmation from power is not needed, then that too is rendered useless. So the buddhist spy almost becomes machine like. Perhaps this is another case for the advancement of the neurodiverse, or those people less emotionally driven to some extent, in favour of the ‘safety’ of the binary world. In essence, the buddhist spy is simply a person who cannot be bought, and therefore cannot be compromised. Could you be that person?
The latest Global Terrorism Index data shows Incidents of far-right terrorism have been increasing in the West, particularly in Western Europe, North America, and Oceania and the three largest politically motivated terrorist attacks in the West in the last 50 years have been perpetuated by far-right extremists.
How to be honest and diplomatic at the same time. Recruiting an MI6 employee is relativley easy compared to keeping an MI6 employee, or indeed within any intelligence service....maybe with the exception of MOSSAD (they may well have their own less liberal incentive structures). Think of an MI6 employee as a pilot in the Airforce. The taxpayer spends millions on training them, they love the thought of flying and a good dogfight, serving their nation, they train for years, then end up flying charter aircraft for tourists to Tenerife every summer, retire with high blood pressure and wonder what the hell happened. It's life It will happen to most people in a hard profession. Ideology is a luxury. Having it, implies choice. Not everyone has choice. Joining for these reasons alone, will not keep you in MI6. When ideology goes it has to be replaced with another luxury item. Money? Ego? Power? Maybe even Revenge. Cynical comments maybe, but quite possibly simply realistic ones. Losing an MI6 employee of sufficient rank is a huge risk and one which has faced MI6 since its inception. In todays climate, ideology is watered down when compared to the sheer extremes of the 1930's to 1950's. So, people are satisfied with less demanding tempations...money. The consequences however could be costly, so it must be a constant battle for HR in any service to constantly monitor their officers. They cant be expected to monitor the agents/assets, because that is the job of the IO's. So, they have to watch them instead...but at what cost? The move in the US (and now UK) to Private Intelligence Agencies makes sense. MI6 and CIA and others will adopt the "if we cant beat them join them" mentality. All intelligence agencies know the weak spots and of course, money takes centre stage. In reality, those who have more influence and have more information will be paid in some way...regardless. What of the Head of a Desk in Brussels, or the Team Leader in Counter Intelligence who has been in the post for ten years? Will their passion and drive for justice get them through the bad times? Of course not. They, as with any other person in any other 9-5 job will either stay put and accept their fate i.e bills, school fees, holidays, loved ones etc, or they will move laterally and for more money to a PIA. One thing is certain, the factors that got you in the job in the first place will become much less influencial in later years. The average field operative will spend more time in Airports, taxi's, and hotels than even the most seasoned Sales Rep, so whatever it is that drives those at the top of their game, is generally more complicated than a pay rise. Getting to that position is hard and so for those in the middle ranks, the majority, then teamwork, camaraderie and a shared focus can often keep you going through the less than glamorous times when remembering why you did the job, is a more distant memory. Not forgetting the draw of secrecy. It is often described as a burden for most, but in reality, it does unite and bring people involved in the business much closer together. It is a common trait found with nearly all secret societies or organisations. Even as children we bond by forming gangs and secret groups laden with codes and initiations (maybe more so for boys admittedly), and this is carried on throughout life. A secret shared etc etc...So, there are positive elements to a job in such an organisation and as complex individuals not all our motivators and drivers can be simply categorised.
So, SIS or Intelligence work for a government may or may not be for you, so consider the implications and facts carefully. Look at basic human vulnerabilities. History. Evidence. The core drivers of humanity will not change regardless of which society you happen to have fallen into. Remember, what MI6 stands for...MILITARY Intelligence. This is an organisation which currently sells itself as any other modern day corporate entity with a new, slick PR image to boot. But do not forget where the SIS started and what its foundations are. It is a machine, based on a Military model, designed to protect our Nation and the interests of our citizens at home and abroad. So, good intentions and strong ideological reasons are admirable traits and will no doubt get you through the door. Once you are in however, perhaps it's best to leave them there, and focus on reality.
The UK Defense Secretary only just admitted, in a rather dramatic fashion, that the retreat from overseas entanglement by the US, now keeps him awake at night. That is probably doubtful and is probably merely another political soundbite to ring loudly at the next funding drive. It did however highlight the more serious point that the UK has been beholden to the US for far too long and especially in the air, and also in matters of intelligence. So, as always when a poorer, less celebrity laden team comes to the pitch, the owners have to spend wisely and ensure that every pound spent is carefully considered if they (we) stand a chance. We are in the same game now. So, although it might be nice PR and propaganda to talk of increasing troops and increased spending on tanks and hardware etc., the real victory will depend on which technologies the UK can harness control of faster and more effectively than its foes. To continue the sports analogy, the UK is simply not in a position to buy all the top strikers around today. It has to look way beyond and look at toddlers with technique and take a considered gamble on what technology will prove the most valuable in the future. One area we are particularly focused on at the moment are applications available from visual neuroprosthesis technology. This technology is not the next step, and maybe not even going to be of any real benefit the step beyond that. However, looking three steps ahead and this is where we are heading. If the age old innovation/imitation battle between the Western inventors and their Chinese counterparts is anything to go by, then nothing much will change. The idea itself is no particularly recent. In 2014 for example, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering carried our work for DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) on a project aimed at developing a wireless, implantable brain device that could help restore lost memory function in individuals who have suffered debilitating brain injuries. So, aside from the more well known hearing aid implants, the work on other implants, to work on other functions, has been widespread in several private, government and academic science labs. What we are seeing now, is advancement in the practical application and success of neural implants which are having profoud effects on congitive functions. Regular readers may recall our articles 18 months ago which focussed on another element i.e sub-cutaneous chip research, in which we also referenced the digitzed manipulation of the Amygdalla (the brains 'emotion' regulator) and the potential implications on patients with severe psychopathy. It was and is representative of a pattern of growth which has developed for some time and brought us where we are now.
Bringing the focus back on the battle between competing countries however, for the UK, industrial espionage will continue to feature highly on its agenda both in terms of defender and aggressor. The dilemma is, does the UK feed off the US (who seem to be distancing themselves in various ways) and leave the funding of this innovation in the hands of the US Government, or does it do it itself? If it is the latter, then secrecy and IP protection (for what its worth) will be key factors in protecting their investment and also the security of the nation. We certainly have the talent and know how and pedigree to compete against the likes of Huawei or, more pertinently, the companies already being groomed by the Chinese State to step in as Huawei 2.0, 3.0 and so on. So the hope is that the current blip caused by a temporary 'off the hip' Trump administration, is very much just that, and plans will have been in place well before now to have planned for such events. Although the politicians might have us believe there is trouble at the ranch, the financial ties and intelligence bonds go far beyond the 'hype'. Trump and the US are unlikely to "fire" the UK just yet and for us, the canary in the mine is his hairdresser. Whilst she has a job, we know we are safe.
So, what is a visual neuroprosthetic? The audio version is probably more well known as the Cochlear Implant i.e. a relay between the hearing aid and neural network in the Cochlear to aide hearing. The same is the case with a visual neuroprosthetic. It is an artificial way (at the moment) of stimulating the visual pathways present in the eye and the visual sensations in the brain. In doing so, it opens up the possibility of removing artificial devices such as lenses altogther. Rather than having a prosthetic implant to improve or restore vision, its purpose will be to enhance already perfect vision and add further information directly to the retina. Scientists in The US and Netherlands have already experiemented with implanted chips to regulate the release of chemicals to the Amygdalla. Sub-cutaneous chips have been available and tested now for many years in order to transmit information to externally and via cloud technology. Combining visual neural systems with AI and IOT systems, will expedite intuitive and command driven action through prosthetics.
In terms of visual technology and where we stand with mainstream innovation at the moment, it is fairly well known what is on offer from Google and a growing fraternity of augmented reality/virtual reality firms and their glasses (called ‘smart glasses’). They are cheaply priced and will probably feature well in the Christmas stockings of many teenage gamers. The next step which firms such as Virtualenses (the VL Project) and others are working on, are digital contact lenses. The technological link from glasses to the third-generation wear of neurologically based enhancements. The race is on for sure. With digitized contact lenses, google enabled, recordable, cloud linked and fully interactive already being tested, the race is on for the neurological link between man and machine in the form of a prosthetic. The potential uses, even with just digital contact lenses or military grade glasses, is exceptional. The advantage will be, as with all future moves in technological development for the intelligence community, in more accurate targeting. Transforming 2D maps into 3D real world imagery containing millions of data points all converging and integrating in an intelligence/military ‘cloud’ to instantly disseminate visual information. Those of you of a certain age will recall the war films where planners turned building plans into actual buildings in warehouses to train their soldiers and provide as much realism as possible. The warehouse is gone now, and the maps are instantly relayed into screen fed information to the recipient. When the neuroprosthetic technology comes online, it will remove the need altogether for both learning about the target as well as even having to physically be at the target. The symbiosis between human, biological and physiological, and the cloud-based world will be seamless. It may well represent the final steps before the AI journey reaches its singularity and when the games really begin. But that’s another story. For now, it is a race and a race the UK is going to have to compete in on its own. The roots of the tree run deep and have many twists and turns. Funding will continue to be an important element but will still only be one of the branches of the whole tree. That has always been the case. The fight against the money launderers will continue, or should we say, appear to continue to rage. Overall however, the actual objective of ensuring the right funds hit the right accounts will be crucial in feeding the roots which will eventually allow the UK to blossom in full, with or without the US.
See a demonstration of how Visual Neuroprosthetics linked with IOT technology, will tranform even basic Intelligence Surveillance and Counter Surveillance operations for organisations like MI6. Click.
Open Source Intelligence and Human Intelligence are two data gathering sources the intelligence services use to find relevant information. As the name implies, OSINT will consist of data sets normally found in sources freely available, and more specifically, on the web. Connectivity and cross-analysis are also terms synonimous with these methods of intelligence gathering and the aim of the Intelligence Officer will be to join the dots to increase the probability of relationships existing and having greater statisitical significance.
If you are considering a career in Intelligence, and specificlly in a role as an Data Analyst or Intelligence Officer for MI6, then start becoming familiar with OSINT software, for example Maltego 4.2. It doesn't have to be that one in particular, but Paterva have designed a highly functional platform here to really drill down the data sets, and find maps and graphs that are easily interchangeable and allow useful visual cues as to the importance of different variables in an investigation. So, our advice would be to START NOW. You will need to do as much as you can to put yourself ahead, so speaking several languages and wanting to change the world may not simply be enough. Graduates are a fiercely competitive bunch and so if this is a career you are serious about, then start familiarising yourself with some of the basic tools. Of course as you enter through the gates of the Vauxhall building (or Manchester or wherever you are stationed), you will of course eventually get access to the Aladdins cave of analysts treasure in the form of closed sources of intelligence. MI6's own vault containing the really interesting data and tools for assessment. But, baby steps, and no more so than starting with the wide array of intelligence gathering software already available on the market. Take your time to research what you want to use and most importantly, what it is you want to get out of the software.
In essence, the goal should be to seemlessly bridge the gap between human sourced intelligence (HUMINT) and the mountains of data you have available. If the future is data, and data really is more valuable now than gold, then think of using these sources and software as panning for gold. It will sift away the dirt and useless material and leave you (hopefully) with something that will assist you and your fellow officers to achieve your goals. For the 'developers' out there, this is an ever expanding area, full of demand for new ways of improving the software available as processes and technologies change. So, familiarity with what is available now on the open market (in essence the already 'old stuff') can do no harm.
The Iconic Vauxhall building is often referred to as the Ziggurat. An ancient architectural design from the region of Mesopotamia by early Babylonians. Parts of an area more recently referred to as the middle east, covering Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. Was the construction of the building designed in that way by Farrell in the nineties coincidentally emblematic of architerural history in that region of Babylon? Or was there some thought given to this, knowing that references would be drawn to the Ziggurats origins of design? Was this symbolism being used to link the mutlutude of Mesopotamian rivers, to the grand old River Thames? Given the nature of the beast and a general feeling that events are on the whole, not coindicences, then perhaps it was the latter. According to much more revered and esteemed experts the design has received some criticism and that its inspiration came from the Mayan or Aztec regions and may even have been inspired by buildings such as the Battersea Power Station. But that wouldn’t be anything quite as romantic as this idea now would it? Come on we can do better than that. Think of the top as a shrine, not a platform for sacrifice... hmmm? We have a structure in the middle of our capital, arguably inspired by a design from the original “fertile crescent” and sitting on our very own fertile crescent, the Thames. What better nod to our apparently adversarial cultures than to plonk a clearly middle eastern, Babylonian inspired design in the heart of London. Or is that one idealistic sentiment and overly romantic thought too far? You decide.....
There are some very good, and more obvious reasons why the tap on the shoulder method of recruitment works. It has been used since the begiining and will continue to be used in the future. It works. Why? Apart from the obvious i.e the avoidance of "walk in's" which therefore eliminates the prospects of a double agent entering the organisation, there are less obvious, more subtle (less Policitcally Correct) benefits. We recently wrote about the "Buddhist Spy" and highlighted how removing temptation from an Intelligence (or Operational) Officer as well as an Agent, was often critical in aiding autonomy in the field, as well as trust. The process of targeting an asset for recrutiment is of course completley different and conducted by entirely different people compared to those involved in the more 'vanilla' graduate recrutiment campaigns. That said, there are some cross-overs. There are also some serious deficiencies and limitations to the more exclusionary Oxbridge focussed pool of candidates. In essence there is no one way. There are lots of types needed to fit into an organisation like MI6 or MI5, and representatives from all walks of life and parts of society will be included. The days of Kim Philby certainly highlighted how 6 can get caught with their draws down in Oxford and Cambridge, and indeed they did...in some cases literally. Things probably have not changed that much and there will still be the ususal contingent of 'Russian Reps' walking the cobbled paths of Trinity. It all depends on the job in hand. A diplomat respresenting the FCO in Brussels has to know how to hold a fork after all, and shoot the breeze in a number of topics. By the same token, an agent or operational officer might have precise local knowledge of negotiating a fair rate at a Warsaw brothel or bottle of Wyborowa, or how to lap dance for a visiting Easten dignitary. All visions from a Le Carre novel of course, but you get the point. It takes all sorts. St Andrews and Oxford (generally) offer a middle class elite who might have the family treasure chest to fall back on, so short term financial gain may not be foremost in their minds. They might be used to discipline and harsh treatment but no more so than the teenage street smart facebook manipulator who has lived a little. So, what is the key draw to the tap on the shoulder? The two things any Intelligence Service values very highly, Control and Trust. It gives the organisation control of the process and is therefore more likley to facilitate trust. In this writers view, paranoia and a deep basic level of mistrust are fundamental and desired attributes in this profession. What people consider the 'norm' and healthy in everyday life, may have no place in the IC (or atleast certain parts of it). Taking the topic 'off piste' slightly, some might say the best field agents are slightly mad (methodically mad) highly creative (preferably left handers), magnets for pressure, highly manipulative (exceptionally important and a characteristic too often critisised in people), alone, resourceful,possibly on the spectrum, and have a knack of seeing things others do not. An intelligence officer on the other hand, straight from University is a different animal. That person may not have drink Vodka out of punnets with a Ukrainian Assassin on farms in the Urals, but his job means he will probably find the right person who has. Finding someone who has the skills to work in both roles would however be, apart from unusual, very useful (ahem). The word 'recruitment' means completely different things in different departments. For example, there are a myriad of situations and scenarios when it comes to targeting and recruiting an asset, especially one where they are being asked to provide information about their own organisation or government. There are literally dozens of methods used and it is highly experienced Intelligence Officers and their teams who are responsible for turning or manipulating an asset. Essentially it is still recruitment, but a far cry from the milkrounds around University campuses. Being in an operation can often require skills generally more associated with a con man or fraudster, especially where a cover is being maintained. However, the point man (or woman) in this case has a huge supporting army of highly trained, professional staff back at Section 6. Without each other, and without faith in each others skills, they simply would not be effective. And don't think that these operatives and teams within the hierachy are simply focussed on terrorist organisations. Certainly in the nineties, most of the larger City trading floors had one or two MI5 recruits on stand by. The 'territorial army' equivalent of Intelligence staff if you will. IN the eighites of course htere were the Unions, more recently officers can be found in numerous Government bodies such as HMRC or the Financial Conduct Authority. The reach in endless and always meticulously planned. Going back to the role of an IO, you will be required to demonstrate those skills also associated with typical management positions as well as desired traits such as lateral thinking, risk assessment or specific technical knowledge. As a payroll employee you will have to jump through the HR hoops to a larger extent nowadays than pre-1996. Everyone is accountable of course. If you see a career in the business and maybe eventually within the private intelligence arena, then this will be the path for you. Later in the 'Recruitment' sections we will highlight some well known and not so well known methods of recruting assets. In our view the success and consistency of any intelligence service is fundamentally down to recruitment, specifically targeting and using human assets to deliver precise and valued intelligence. If they cannot be found, or cannot be converted or recrutied, then the whole organisation will suffer. So, being recrutied for a role in recrutiment within MI6 is an extremely important function. And of course, exciting and rewarding beyond many conventional professions.