Website of the Week

Well, that would be www.mi5.gov.uk. I was quite surprised to see this site, but what with open Government and everything. I suppose it was only to be expected. Full of useful information about the spooks. I was particularly taken by the section entitled How to contact the Security Service. Clicking on the button, I was hoping for something along the lines of

Mermaid Fillo "Wear inconspicuous clothing and carry a copy of the Daily Mail. Sit at the third bench from the left in St. James's Park. After a while a duck will approach you. Enquire as to the health of its aunt." But no; it turns out that there's an MI5 Phoneline. It always used to be that if you phoned MI5, or similar organisations, rather than answering the phone "MI5, Vladimir speaking, how may I help you?" or similar, they would just say "hello?" and you'd have to ask "Is that MI5 (or whatever)", feeling like a loon. But now there's a national phoneline. I can just imagine the voicemail...

"Welcome to the MI5 Hotline. If you have information on an international conspiracy to subvert the British way of life, press 1. If you wish to become a spy, press 2. If you want to enquire as to the health of my aunt, press 3. Otherwise, remain on the line, and we will trace your call and tap your phone."

Much of the site is given over to a low key version of the sort of graduate recruitment pages familiar from the site of any large organisation. But one page details 'myths and misunderstandings about the Security Service'. Which is how I discover that MI5 doesn't assassinate people, or illegally tap their phones.

Of course, there doesn't appear to be a www.mi6.gov.uk. [November 2006 update: www.mi6.gov.uk now exists.]

-- Alison Scott


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