| Halle Berry in Die Another Day, where she plays a Black spy
London, July 16: MI5 has resorted to a poster campaign in private London gyms to recruit more women from the ethnic minorities.
Security service chiefs say they want cunning and intelligent women who have an excellent memory. Applicants must also have the skills to blend into a variety of cultural backgrounds, while remaining composed enough to track a potential suicide bomber.
It is the first time MI5 has used a poster campaign to recruit its spies, and the advertisements will also feature in leisure and specialist trade magazines.
The campaign echoes the last James Bond film ' Die Another Day ' in which Halle Berry played Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson, a black spy working for America’s National Security Agency.
According to Whitehall sources, MI5 decided to advertise in gyms because “experience has shown that effective surveillance officers are generally physically fit, undertake plenty of exercise and enjoy an active outdoor life”.
The campaign comes as MI5 is undergoing one of the biggest transformations in its history. By 2008, the organisation will increase the size of its staff from 2,800 to 3,500 and, in an attempt to combat the threat of home-grown Islamist terrorists linked to al Qaida, will establish separate offices in cities outside London.
As part of the expansion it says that it needs to recruit more women from ethnic minorities who specifically want to train as “mobile surveillance officers”.
Although more than half of MI5’s employees are women, fewer than 200 are from the ethnic minorities and only a handful of those are trained as covert surveillance operatives. It is not known how many recruits MI5 needs, but those who pass a series of interviews and selection tests will be enrolled on an initial 75-day course which will teach them basic spying skills.
The course and surveillance training programme are both intensive and demanding and it can take up to two years before trainees are deployed on operations.
Those who make the grade can expect initially to earn '27,000 a year but, after about eight years, could become team leaders directing spying operations.
However, those seeking inspiration need look only at the example of Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, MI5’s director-general. She joined the organisation in 1974 and quickly progressed from typing up telephone transcripts to becoming a fully-fledged spycatcher.
An expert in counter-terrorism, she was involved in the Lockerbie investigation, served as MI5’s liaison officer in Washington and became director of counter-terrorism in Ireland, spearheading the fight against the Provisional IRA.
In contrast, the poster is understood to describe a typical female surveillance operative, saying she “spends around '30 a month on cosmetics. Enjoys curling up on the sofa to watch a good weepy. Loves romantic dinners in her favourite Italian restaurant. Uses the car a lot for work ' often involves sitting around for long periods but can still switch on all her senses in an instant. Owns a cat named Hoogli”.
MI5 periodically advertises for new recruits. After the 7/7 attacks on London, its website received thousands of inquiries from people of all backgrounds interested in a career with the service.