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1993: Secret Service goes public
Britain's internal security service, MI5, has held the first photocall in its 84-year history.

Stella Rimington, 56, became the first Director General of the MI5 to pose openly for cameras at the launch of a brochure outlining the organisation's activities

She was made the first female head of MI5 last year - following another unprecedented public announcement - after 22 years in the service.

Journalists were invited to their first official briefing by a senior MI5 official where they were warned that this was not the beginning of "a great avalanche of openness".

The new booklet reveals nearly half of MI5's work concerns domestic terrorism, particularly the IRA. Only 5% of its activities involve subversion and the remaining workload is shared between threats generated abroad and counter espionage.

I think it's right that the public should be consulted about this agency
Home Secretary Michael Howard
Being in public life is not sufficient justification for investigation.

Very few operational details appear in the 36-page brochure, although the methodologies are listed as eavesdropping, surveillance, telephone-tapping and agents.

There is also an address for public correspondence about matters of national security.

The security service was only given legal recognition four years ago in the 1989 Security Service Act.

Home Secretary Michael Howard, who was at today's launch, said: "I think it's right that the public should be consulted about this agency, this service which does so much to help protect us."

Shadow Home Secretary Tony Blair has called for an independent parliamentary committee to oversee the work MI5 does in the public interest.

The Secret Service Bureau was founded in 1909 by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in response to the expansion of the German Navy.

By 1939 it had 30 officers and today numbers about 2,000, with an equal number of men and women, 50% of whom are aged below 40, often recruited straight from university.

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Photograph of MI5 chief Stella Rimington at work
Stella Rimington is the first head of MI5 to be photographed publicly

In Context
The Security Service's booklet was revised in 1996, 1998 and 2002.

MI5 first openly advertised job vacancies in 1997 and received 12,000 applications on the first day.

The historical archives of the Service's work in the First and Second World Wars were released by the Public Record Office in 1997 and 1999.

In 1998/9 the Security Service had a budget of nearly 140m and employed 1,900.

It is currently based in Thames House, Millbank. A second female head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, took office in October 2002.

Stella Rimington delivered the Dimbleby Lecture in 1994 and remained director general of MI5 until 1996.

She published her controversial memoirs and made her first television appearance in 2001.

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