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Wednesday, July 29, 1998 Published at 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK


Sci/Tech

MI5 site - the secret's out!

MI5 is passing on unclassified information about itself

By BBC Internet correspondent Chris Nuttall

The secretive British Security Service MI5 has gone public with its own official Website - although it was naturally password-protected right up until Wednesday's launch.

Trying to get into www.mi5.gov.uk before it went live brought up a user name and password box to fill in for authentication. Typing James Bond and 007 failed to allow access.

The new site itself does not give much away. The style is basic and the home page has only three links - to more information, a jobs page and a contact numbers page (no secret codes required here).

Agents wanted

"Please note that it is important from the outset that you should be discreet about your interest in joining the Service," says the careers page.

It lists employment opportunites for linguists (particularly with Arabic, Turkish, Mandarin, Urdu, Punjabi and Farsi skills), computer experts and administrative, clerical and support staff.

"The atmosphere in the Service is friendly and informal. The importance of our work, and the fact that we can_t talk about it publicly, creates a stimulating atmosphere of co-operation and mutual support," the intelligence agency says.

What goes on inside MI5's headquarters near the Houses of Parliament is of course top secret. But the interior is described as "air-conditioned with up to date workstations and office automation systems. It contains good facilities for staff including a restaurant, shop, multi-gym and squash courts".

All about MI5

Clicking on Information about the Security Service takes you to a booklet published today, here in glossy Acrobat format, with a foreword by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

He officially launched the website and told the Commons on Wednesday that MI5 still held 440,000 files, which have been opened since it was established in 1909. 20,000 were still active, he said, with 13,000 relating to British citizens.

The booklet declares it does not carry out assassinations nor routinely monitor the private lives of members of the royal family or other public figures.

Ironically, the Website is launched only days after the government tried to block a website started by a former MI5 agent, David Shayler. He had threatened to make disclosures abroad about MI5's work.





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