Murdered British spy: life of a modern day spook
Murdered in a Pimlico flat registered to a mysterious company, his body found in a sports bag in the bathroom: Gareth Williams died a spy's death.
By Ben Leach | August 26, 2010
A British spy who was found dead in the bath of a flat in London was stabbed several times before his body was stuffed into a sports bag where it lay decomposing for up to two weeks.
But while his death was the stuff of James Bond films, his life – and that of most modern day spooks – was a little more mundane.
Mr Williams worked for the Government’s top secret communications monitoring agency, GCHQ – reputed to be the most secretive of Britain's three national security agencies.
Its role is to gather intelligence for the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other agencies, while Iain Lobban, its director, is responsible to the Foreign Secretary.
But little is known about the work carried out by its 5,500 staff, whose job it is to trawl through billions of emails, text messages and telephone calls.
Through these channels they aim to gather intelligence on terrorist networks, organised criminals and foreign governments.
Staff will spend hours, days and weeks on end analysing communications and looking out for coded messages or suspicious content.
For that reason recruits are typically mathematics, engineering or science experts, or computer geeks and technicians, rather than James Bond type action figures.
Nonetheless they are subject to a rigorous recruitment process. This will usually start with a number of psychometric tests often used by blue chip companies and designed to reveal their powers of analysis and observation.
Applicants are told not to reveal details of their application to members of their family or loved ones and if successful are subject to rigorous security checks.
And while they are not banned from Facebook or other social networking sites they are told to keep their social lives clean to avoid the threat of being blackmailed.
Beyond the recruitment process though their lives bear more resemblance to that of a typical civil servant.
They are given perks associated with any public sector job, such as long holidays, a generous pension and liberal allowances when posted abroad.