James Bond was famously given the licence to kill by MI6, as part of his role as a British secret agent.
Today’s wannabe spies are more likely to ask for something else: permission to work from home – a cultural shift that has hit recruitment figures for Germany’s intelligence service.
The president of the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) has said that finding enough staff was proving difficult as older members of the service retired and left, meaning there were not enough replacements.
Bruno Kahl said: “We cannot offer certain conditions that are taken for granted today.” He described finding enough of the right staff as a growing challenge.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the tales of real and fictional espionage involving tradecraft such as dead drops, brush pasts and microdot photography, there is limited scope for carrying out espionage from your spare bedroom, even in 2023.
“Remote work is barely possible at the BND for security reasons, and not being able to take your cell phone to work is asking much from young people looking for a job,” Kahl said, according to Reuters.
About 6,500 people work for the BND, according to its homepage. The service was founded in 1956 in West Germany during the cold war and remained intact after reunification in 1989. East Germany’s foreign intelligence department, the HVA, was wound up.
It has courted controversy in recent decades for working closely with the US before the invasion of Iraq, and for spying on journalists in Germany.
Yet despite the preconception about life in the field, the problem does not appear to be shared by other intelligence agencies.
Its UK counterpart tells potential applicants on its careers website that it offers “flexible working [which] means you can work around personal commitments”.
Meanwhile the CIA said it has “several working groups” looking at working from home.