Подкаст: "Do you want to be a spy"

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Intelligence. What does it mean? The word "intelligence" has two main meanings in English. First, it can mean "mental capacity" – if you are intelligent, you can think clearly and rationally, for example. But "intelligence" also means information. For example, we can talk about "market intelligence" – and that means, information about what is happening in a market, such as the stock market or the international oil market. Very often, we use "intelligence" to mean information which is secret, or which has been obtained illegally. Many governments have "intelligence services" which collect secret information about other countries, or about the government's opponents at home. Intelligence services employ agents – or, to use the more normal word, spies. To spy on someone means to watch them secretly, without them knowing. A few days ago, an advert appeared in the jobs section of the newspaper which I read. "Don't keep your intelligence secret!" it said. It was an advertisement for jobs in the British Secret Intelligence Service – the SIS or, as it is sometimes known, MI6. It was an advertisement for spies.

Many years ago, I worked in British Embassies in the Middle East and in Scandinavia. In the Embassies, there were some diplomats who were from the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). It was supposed to be secret, but everyone knew who they were. Of course, we were not allowed to call them spies, or people from the intelligence service – we had to refer to them as "our friends". Sometimes we saw their intelligence reports. They were marked "Top Secret" and told us things that we knew already. I do not know how the SIS recruited people to work for them in those days. Perhaps they approached people in secret, and invited them to secret interviews with secret people.

In those days, too, the name of the head of the SIS was never made public. He was known only as "C". He wrote things in green ink. No-one else was allowed to use green ink. It was all very ridiculous.

But nowadays it is different. The SIS advertises for spies in the newspapers, and even has a website which tells you what the SIS does and what sort of people it wants to recruit. It has a grand headquarters building at Vauxhall Cross in the centre of London. And we know that the head of the SIS is called John Scarlett. He is well-known in Britain. In his previous job, he advised our government that it was OK to say that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The fact that he was completely wrong obviously did his career no harm. But that is how many organisations work. If you are a junior employee and you make a big mistake, they sack you. If you are a senior person, they promote you.

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