The SIS #Secretlywerejustlikeyou Campaign
Seriously? I bally well hope not. I do hope the future of secret intelligence in the western world is not in the hands of people like me. I work on a building site 8 hours a day, I go for 8 pints after work, home to the missus and kids and same again next day. At the weekends I sit in my garden which also doubles up as a builders site and reseller for various white goods merchandise, and peruse the pages of the Sun and ogle at large breasted young ladies. Please PR people choose your words carefully....hasn't someone told you about "aspiration" and "knowing your place". We are after all in the business of protecting people who are unable to protect themselves. They rely on a higher power of some description or another and defer their responsibilities to those who take them seriously. This campaign needs a touch of salt to what is an otherwise bland starter.
The Secret Intelligence Service recently began the #secretlywerejustlikeyou campaign in an effort to spread the recruitment net wider to more closely reflect the individuals within the society it serves to protect. The campaign has not been without its critics as some have accused SIS of pandering to the PR culture in an effort to realign itself more closely with the society it needs now more than ever to be on its side (read the Future of Secret Intelligence pages to see why).
There does have to be an element of honesty here as the term has a notably diverse connotation with the word "you'. If SIS is like you then that is completely dependent on who 'you' are and as such the SIS campaign strives to recognise the diverse nature of our society, of other societies and cultures, and of course, the diversity of threats against us. That is not to say the previously red-brick 'tapping up' approach has disappeared, but in order to remain fluid and adaptive, the organisation needs to follow each channel. It is arguable that since the times of Kim Philby, which exposed the rather staid and rigid character of the intelligence agencies, the organisation has had to move with the times. Events of that era played into the hands of the communists as they were first to exploit the weakness of SIS recruitment and headed straight for the campuses and their dons to infiltrate the service. The truth is that this search for diversification has been happening since those early days and diversity has always been reflected in the organisation, it was just the glass ceiling that prevented real advancement. Those places were always reserved for the establishment and frankly, still are. In essence, at each point since the War the organisation has had a wide array of characters, methods of recruitment, methods of operation and has always aimed to stay ahead of the various 'fashions' in terms of technological development. All that has really changed now is the pace of that change and the requirement for SIS to develop exponentially spurred on with a larger budget leading to greater recruitment.
By use of the word 'you', what the term "we're just like you" actually means is, we are like everyone. Clearly there is a PR spin involved here and clearly the 'tap on the shoulder' method, albeit after sophisticated vetting and research on an individual, still represents the key method when it comes to recruiting 'important' key targets. The campaign is sending a statement to our friends and enemies that the intelligence network is still here and you should watch out because we are ploughing resources into it.
So, what does the 2019 spy look like and if the organisation is just like 'you' (not 'secretly' now of course), what key traits does an MI6 employee have?
Firstly, it depends what you mean by a Spy. The term is broad and in the context of the roles SIS recruits for, the role of a 'spy' is varied to say the least. It also depends greatly on which intelligence service you opt for. MI5 will tend to seek a different 'type' to MI6. Just the application form alone gives you a clue that is the case. Take MI5 for example, an active MSO (surveillance officer) will be less than a certain height and have no distinguishing features such as a tattoo. This confession (or is it?) on their form is already giving the enemy (subject of interest) a heads up as to who may or may not be following them. Based on that, if I were an SOI and looked behind me and saw a 6ft 3inch guy covered in tattoos i'd be thinking, well he's not MI5 thats for sure. Based on that logical conclusion, one would probably be sensible using a person like that to carry out surveillance....a double bluff of sorts. So who knows? Maybe the recruitment form itself is misinformation for that very reason.
As far as SIS is concerned, the organisation will tend to seek individuals who are a little more independent and autonomous and of course have a penchant for foreign cultures, international politics and ideally some language skills.