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MI5 has begun laying off older intelligence officers who cannot get to grips with the internet and other modern technologies.

Jonathan Evans, director general of the Security Service, recently told the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) he was making voluntary and compulsory redundancies to improve the organisation's IT skills.

"I think some of the staff perhaps aren't quite the ones that we will want for the future," he is quoted saying in the ISC's recent annual report.

MI5's overall staff numbers are increasing however, rising 40 per cent between April 2006 and April 2009. The ongoing recruitment drive aims to bring numbers up to 4,100 by next year.

IT recruitment is a problem not just for MI5, but also for the other intelligence agencies, MI6 and GCHQ. All must compete with the relatively large salaries available to the best IT professionals in the private sector.

GCHQ, the largest of the three with over 5,000 staff, told the ISC recently: "Recruitment of the much sought after Internet Analysts, those with rare language skills and Information Assurance specialists continue to be our main challenge."

The Cheltenham-based agency is opening its doors to BBC radio tomorrow, partly in an apparent effort to attract more recruits. ®

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