July 3, 2006

Al Qaeda tried to infiltrate Britain’s MI5: report

LONDON (Reuters) - Al Qaeda sympathizers have been trying
to infiltrate British security service MI5, a news report said
on Monday.

The infiltrators tried to take advantage of a sharp
expansion in MI5's numbers by applying for jobs at the agency,
BBC radio and television reported.

However, the attempt failed because the suspicious
applicants were weeded out during a six-to-eight month vetting
process, it said, quoting government officials.

Britain's interior ministry, which speaks for MI5, declined
to confirm or deny the report.

"All applicants for jobs at the Security Service/MI5 are
subject to a rigorous vetting procedure and a number of
candidates are turned down on security vetting grounds," it

The number of MI5 officers is set to rise to 3,500 from
2,600 now to try to prevent attacks such as those carried out
by British Muslim suicide bombers on London transport a year
ago that killed 52 people.

Once highly secretive, MI5 now advertises openly for
recruits on its Web site and says it is very keen to talk to
speakers of Arabic, Bengali, Urdu, Somali and Sorani (a Kurdish

Tens of thousands of people apply to join MI5 each year,
with 400 making it through to final selection, the BBC said.
Applicants' backgrounds and sympathies are intensively

Created in 1909 as a counter-espionage bureau, MI5 is best
known for dealing with Soviet espionage during the Cold War and
with Irish militant groups. But after the September 11 attacks
in the United States, the British government has sought to
shift MI5's priority to countering Islamic militants.