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    A general view of the headquarters of Britain's internal security service MI5 , in London Friday Nov. 10, 2006

    MI5 Avoided Recruiting Black Spies in the 60s, Citing 'Security Risk' - Reports

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    The head of MI5 at the time is said to have remarked that the risks of employing “coloured staff” originated “simply from the colour of a man’s skin, which gives him a chip on his shoulder," adding that "It would be a long time before this chip is removed.”

    Back in the 1960s senior MI5 officials believed that black people could not be trusted in high-level security roles, newly declassified documents reveal.

    The papers reportedly show how senior officials at the UK's Security Service consciously sort to avoid recruiting black spies, and moreover, that people from the minority community could not be trusted in such jobs because of harboured anger over racial discrimination. 

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    According to the UK's Guardian, the shock revelations were discovered by Professor of international history, Dan Lomas, who apparently found the files while sifting through papers at the British interdepartmental committee on security.

    ​The files are said to show how employers at the spy agency practiced a policy of refusing to employ people based solely on skin colour. 

    ​Reportedly, Mr Lomas was looking at documentation from a period in the 1960s when the then Labour government of Harold Wilson was vying to introduce legislation aimed at racial equality.

    READ MORE: Corbyn Summoned by MI5 for 'Facts of Life' Briefing on Terrorism — Reports

    Lomas has been quoted widely in the British media as saying that while it was known that MI5 had a mistrust of Jewish people, there has been a "surprising omission" on how they felt about black people.

    ​The Salford University professor is quoted by the Guardian as saying that, "the discussions around new legislation on racial discrimination being introduced in the 1960s seem to have presented a threat to the established, but unspoken, rule that black people risked national security."

    "Since the 1940s, there were bans on communists and fascists working in government. In the 1950s, this was extended to what was described as 'character defects,' such as homosexuality, mental illness and alcoholism — but these papers reveal the officials also saw race as a security issue," he added.

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    At the height of the Cold War in the 1960s, British officials were seemingly worried that politically frustrated black citizens could be easy recruitment targets for the Soviet Union. In fact, the declassified papers are said to contain minutes from a Cabinet Office meeting, which was attended by then MI5 chief, Martin Furnival Jones and the UK Defence Minister. According to the documents, Jones declared that, "it must be assumed that the communist intelligence services are fully aware of the possibilities of recruiting agents from among disaffected coloured people in this country."

    For some, the findings will no doubt have resonance today. It was only in July 2018 that a report by the UK government's Intelligence and Security Committee blasted the country's main intelligence agencies — MI5 and MI6 — for what it described as their "lamentable" lack of black and Asian staff in senior positions. At that time, it was found that neither MI6, which deals with overseas intelligence, nor MI5 had a single person of black or Asian background in top posts between 2016-17.

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    Tags:
    black and ethnic minorities, racism, spies, intelligence, MI5, United Kingdom
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