The Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, is to begin recruiting openly for spies to capitalise on increasing interest from Muslim graduates.
The unexpected rise in applications from British Asians has encouraged the hierarchy at MI6 to change its methods of recruiting and to tap into what appears to be a rich vein of eager patriots, reports the Times newspaper.
Although there is no decision yet on how the service intends to make itself more open to those interested in a spying career, intelligence sources are reported to have said that it will advertise in a way that would make it obvious that it was MI6 offering a job.
It will be a significant break from traditional recruiting practice, which has largely depended on talent spotting by trusted university dons.
MI6’s sister service, MI5, has for many years been more transparent and runs its own website which includes job application forms.
However, MI6 has always treasured its secretiveness, arguing that as the focus of its work involves covert intelligence-gathering overseas, it has an obligation to its agents to remain in the shadows.
Since the London bombings, the number of people applying to join MI6 through the only existing way of applying – a PO Box number – has risen by a fifth, many of whom referred to the attacks.
MI6 created the number, PO Box 1300, in 1992, but started using it as a recruitment tool only in 2001.
The starting salary for a 23-year-old agent is about £24,000.