Now, Britain's domestic spy agency - MI-5 - is hunting for its very own "Q," of sorts.
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MI-6's sister organization, which carries out
surveillance on terror suspects inside Britain and gives security
advice to the government, is searching for someone to lead its
Projects could include everything from developing counterterrorism technology to tackling a biological or chemical attack.
"Looking for a chief scientific adviser to lead and
co-ordinate the scientific work of the security service so that the
service continues to be supported by excellent science and technology
advice," MI-5's website ad reads.
Since the 2001 terror attacks in the United States
and the subsequent suicide bombings in London in 2005, spy agencies
around the world have raced to develop technological tools in the fight
Mobile phones equipped with sensors for detecting
chemical, biological or radioactive agents are already in the works.
Others, such as supersensitive eavesdropping devices, will likely be
rolled out for the 2012 Olympics in London.
The biggest fear, however, remains a chemical, biological or nuclear attack.
"Threat equals the capability of your enemy and their
intention," said a British government official who spoke on condition
of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work. "What we've seen
over the years is terror cells transferring both knowledge and
technology. The intention is limitless."
Candidates for the MI-5 job need to be at least 18
and be British or naturalized citizens who have "world-class scientific
expertise and credibility in relevant scientific and technology
disciplines, outstanding influencing and communication skills,
experience of building an effective network and of creating a high
There are no salary details posted for the job, which would be two to three days a week.
MI-5 head Jonathan Evans - himself an expert on
al-Qaida and other terror networks - has talked publicly about the
threat that terror groups still pose to Britain. He also spoke recently
about the threat posed by digital spying, or using technology to obtain
confidential or sensitive information.
The spy agency has long had a roster of scientific
staff tasked with developing high-tech gadgets, but an official said
the service now wants a high-profile figure to lead pioneering work in
technology and science.
The adviser's work will focus chiefly on creating
sophisticated new tools to help security service officers carry out
surveillance and analysis work, said a government security official,
who requested anonymity to discuss the work of MI-5.
Recent court cases in Britain have detailed the
heavy use by MI-5 and police of audio and video bugs and email
intercepts to track conversations between suspects.
Officers have long been rumoured to have other James
Bond-style kits at their disposal, including chemicals which can be
attached to a suspect and leave a trace wherever they go - similar to
the radioactive lint supplied by "Q" to 007.
Although the fictional James Bond character of "Q"
worked for MI-6 and was best known for his gadgets, he was also known
in the Ian Fleming novels as a quartermaster of the agency's scientific
Security officials refuse to discuss what techniques MI-5 uses, for fear of compromising their methods.