As an MI5 agent “Tom Marcus” risked his life for more than eight years, secretly tracking Islamic extremists and IRA dissidents on the streets of Britain. But when he left MI5 – with a CV full of inexplicable holes – he found himself taking jobs in a call centre and burger bar.
Tom Marcus is still jittery three years after retiring as a spy, he tells the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. Walking down the street, he sometimes sees suspicious behaviour where there is none – shady people lurking in doorways; unusual bulges in coats; nervous, furtive glances.
Tom – not his real name, it can’t be used for security reasons – saw plenty during his eight years as an MI5 surveillance officer to make him suspicious.
On one occasion he helped thwart a plan to blow up two coaches full of schoolchildren returning from a trip to France.
Undercover as a homeless man, and positioned near a mosque, he had noticed that a young Muslim man he had been tracking – who had fought with militant Islamist group Boko Haram in Africa before returning to the UK – had entered the place of worship but not left it. He had also counted more women leaving the building than going in.
He decided that one of the “women” leaving must have been the male extremist disguised in a burka. He informed his superiors, and the man – found to have six home-made bombs in his car – was arrested. The bombs were all set to go off at the same time via a mobile phone found on the suspect, meaning Tom almost certainly saved lives that day.
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The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.
The biggest operation in which Tom was involved stopped a planned bombing of a shopping centre in Manchester over an Easter weekend, potentially saving hundreds of lives. This was one part of a highly co-ordinated attack on people in the UK and US, directed from Pakistan, which also aimed to explode car bombs at the site of the Twin Towers on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Tom himself became a target for an attempted beheading when extremists developed a plan to kidnap MI5 operatives in the UK. The extremists had assigned people to watch the spies while they were following a suspect, and had covered the floor of a house in Kentish Town, north London, with plastic sheeting in anticipation of taking one captive. A black flag, three butchers’ knives and a video camera, suggesting it would be filmed, were also found at the house.
Tom – who has written his memoirs, Soldier Spy – says that were it not for the extremists’ “targets team” backing out at the last moment, he would not be here to tell the tale.
In the end, the job caught up with Tom. He suffered nightmares about being attacked and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), returning to civilian life in 2013. He feels he’s recovered now.
He also struggled to find another job. Because of the anonymity required by MI5, Tom, who joined the Army at the age of 16 before moving on to the security services, has a large gap in his CV.
“It’s been hugely difficult to get a job,” he says. “Working as an MI5 surveillance officer is seen as a job for life – so when you have to come out it’s very difficult to figure out what job you can do.
“You can’t answer the question about what you’ve been doing for the last 10 to 15 years in a job interview properly because you’d be breaking the Official Secrets Act.”
“Some people come up with a Ministry of Defence cover story,” he says, “but trying to explain the skills you say you have for a made-up story just unravels – and I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.
“So, work-wise, I just started at the bottom of the pile again. I got an MI5 pension but I had to make money by working in call centres and flipping burgers to build up work experience.”
He is now a full-time writer.
“The only really well-paid options for someone like me were in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but I just couldn’t risk my life doing that.
“It was never an option. I didn’t want my PTSD to come back. And no amount of money is worth risking being caught and beheaded.”
‘Mr and Mrs Smith’
Part of the reason for Tom’s concern is that, while working as a spy, he married a fellow special operations agent and they had a son together.
“People used to joke about it, calling us Mr and Mrs Smith,” he says, referring to the married spies in a film of the same name, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But, unlike the Hollywood actors, Tom’s marriage has endured.
Tom, who grew up in poverty in northern England – his father an alcoholic ex-soldier who killed himself – takes extra care to make sure his son is safe at all times. He had the boy’s clothes tagged so that he could be traced via GPS if he was captured on the way to or from his nursery. His sleeping bag at home is tagged for the same reason.
But, despite these precautions, Tom thinks the UK, which has not seen a multiple-fatality terrorist attack since the London bombings of 7 July 2005, is “the safest place in the world”.
It is, he says, served by the “best group of intelligence agencies in the world” in MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. But they face growing and varied challenges.
“The tactics change completely,” says Tom – who monitored suspected spies from Russia and China, and spied on the Continuity IRA, during his career.
“When you are watching an IRA terrorist you have to be careful about having no kit that could identify them. They’re very good at counter-surveillance so could spot an MI5 officer unless they were very careful.
“Islamic extremists are normally quite settled in their local communities – and so the MI5 officers need to be very aware and sensitive about how they move in and out of these local areas so as not to draw attention to themselves.
“The Russians are so aware and in tune to surveillance operations from other secret services. If they suspect they’re being watched they just won’t do anything to do with their intelligence activities. You have have to watch Russian spies from a distance and never have the same people watching them.
“There is no one target who’s easier or more difficult to watch – it’s just different depending on who you are watching.”
Of course, Tom says, it only takes one successful terrorist to create havoc on a grand scale.
“But if you do get frightened watching the news,” he adds, “just be confident that everything is being done to keep you safe.”
Tom Marcus’s account of events has been vetted and cleared for publication by MI5 as part of his memoirs. Names and some specific details in the book have been changed in order to protect colleagues and ensure current and future investigations are not jeopardised.
Decembetch is almost over but there’s still plenty of time for you to #SlayYourPay. So we asked an actual recruiter for the best strategies to get what you want. You’re welcome.
What’s your background?
Two years ago, I worked as a graphic designer for a fashion company and I *hated it*. I decided to make a change and now I work on the happy side of HRwhich means I hire people and change their lives for the better, and I love it. I specialize in technology, building teams in-house. Currently I’m at Fueled, a product focused mobile shop that builds cool stuff.
What’s the deal with men getting paid more than women?
In my experience, it’s been interesting to see the differences between male and female candidates during the hiring process. Often, I would have two equally qualified candidates for the same role, but women would sell them selves short. I’m talking $20K shortthat’s a new handbag and a trip to Paris! You don’t want to low-ball yourself early on in your career, because it adds up over the years. For instance, sometimes I would question a candidate’s seniority if their salary didn’t reflect their level of experience. You want to be able to stand against the competition and show your value. That’s why it’s so important to be able to slay your play.
What’s the best time to ask for a raise?
It varies, but the earliest I would say is after the first 6 months to a year. It gives you enough time to demonstrate your value to the company and see how much their business has improved (because of you!). In terms of the calendar year, I would wait until after the new year and the beginning of any fiscal quarter. After the first quarter or middle of the year, many companies are reevaluating their finances. If the company is not doing so well then it might be time to start looking for another job. If they are thriving, then it’s time to cash in.
What are some things women should have prepared before going in to ask for a raise?
Unlike our president-elect, you should come in with facts facts facts. Do not ask for a raise to support your shopping habit, your studio apartment downtown, or even student loansthat’s not what your boss wants to hear. Go in *knowing* your value and being able to speak on how you added value to the company since your start date. Go above and beyond the job descriptionthe basics are expected once you come on board, fucking duh. I’m talking about the extra stuff. Did you come up with a new idea that helped your company/team work more efficiently, hence helping the company make more money on your behalf? Show that.
Research the market. Know what your peers are making in your location and match that. I recommend sites like salary.com or glassdoor.com. It also doesn’t hurt to talk about money with people you know in the industryas they say, those who make money, talk about money.
Lastly, visuals are always key when presenting and persuading an argument. Did you know that Emma Stone showed her parents a PowerPoint to convince them to allow her to finish high school early and move to Hollywood to start her acting career? Now look at her, co-staring in films with Ryan Gosling. That could be you. Well, not really. But you get the point.
Are there any phrases we should use or avoid when negotiating?
Stay away from sob storiesno one wants to hear them. Stand your ground. Say “I” and don’t apologize. (If you want to admit to a mistake, then excuse yourself by saying “pardon” rather than “I’m sorry.”) Stick to facts. Also, if you’re moving companies rather than staying, DO NOT use a new job offer as leverage at your current company. Some people will go to their current employer and say shit like, THIS IS A TERRIBLE FUCKING IDEA. Counter offers break trust and you’ll end up leaving within 6 months anyway. Just be transparent. Businesses respect that. And the more quantitative you can be in demonstrating your worth, the better.
Any final tips?
If I could leave you with anything, it would be the wise words from Drake: “Know yourself, know your worth”.
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The ongoing fight between Apple and the FBI over breaking into the iPhone makers encryption system to access a persons data is becoming an increasingly challenging legal issue.
With a deadline looming, Apple filed court papers explaining why it is refusing to assist the FBI in cracking a password on an iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino shooting. CEO Tim Cook has declared he will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
The tech company now wants Congress to step in and define what can be reasonably demanded of a private company, though perhaps it should be careful what it wishes for, considering lawmakers have introduced a bill that compels companies to break into a digital device if the government asks.
But there is an irony to this debate. Government once pushed industry to improve personal data privacy and security now its the tech companies who are trumpeting better security. My own research has highlighted this interplay among businesses, users and regulators when comes to data security and privacy.
For consumers, who in coming years will see ever more of their lives take place in the digital realm, this heightened attention on data privacy is a very good thing.
The heart of the case is the phone of a suspect in the San Bernardino shootings. Reuters
The Business Case For Better Privacy Grows
Not too long ago, everyone seemed to be bemoaning that companies arent doing enough to protect customer security and privacy.
The White House, for example, published a widely cited report saying that the lack of online privacy is essentially a market failure. It highlighted that users simply are in no position to control how their data are collected, analyzed and traded. Thus, a market-based approach to privacy will be ineffective, and regulations were necessary to force firms to to protect the security and privacy of consumer data.
The tide seems to have turned. Repeated stories on data breaches and privacy invasion, particularly from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, appears to have heightened users attention to security and privacy. Those two attributes have become important enough that companies are finding it profitable to advertise and promote them.
Whether it is through its payment software or operating system, Apple has emphasized security and privacy as an important differentiator in its products. Of course, unlike Google or Facebook, Apple does not make money using customer data explicitly. So it may have more incentives than others to incorporate these features. But it competes directly with Android and naturally plays an important role in shaping market expectation on what a product and service should look like.
These features possibly play an even more critical role outside the U.S. where privacy is under threat not only from online marketers and hackers but also from governments. In countries like China, where Apple sells millions of iPhones, these features potentially are very attractive to end users to keep their data private from prying eyes of authorities.
Consumers are demanding more security, something Apple has taken to heart. Reuters
Regulators Hum A Different Tune
It is clear that Apple is offering strong security to its users, so much so that FBI accuses it of using it as a marketing gimmick.
It seems we have come a full circle in the privacy debate. A few years ago, regulators were lamenting how businesses were invading consumers’ privacy, lacked the proper incentives to do so and how markets needed stronger rules to make it happen. Today, some of the same regulators are complaining that products are too secure and firms need to relax it in some special cases.
While the legality of this case will likely play out over time, we as end users can feel better that in at least in some markets, companies are responding to a growing consumer demand for products that more aggressively protect our privacy. Interestingly, Apples mobile operating system, iOS, offers security by default and does not require users to opt-in, a common option in most other products. Moreover, these features are available to every user, whether they explicitly want it or not, suggesting we may be moving to a world in which privacy is fundamental.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has promised to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court if he must. Reuters
Data Sharing Gets Complicated
At its core, this debate also points to a larger question over how a public-private partnership should be structured in a cyberworld and how and when a company needs to share details with either the government or possibly with other businesses for the public good.
When Google servers were breached in China in 2010, similar questions arose. United States government agencies wanted access to technical details on the breach so it could investigate the perpetrators more thoroughly to unearth possible espionage attempts by Chinese hackers. The breach appeared to be aimed at learning the identities of Chinese intelligence operatives in the U.S. that were under surveillance.
Information sharing on data breaches and security infiltration is something the government has widely encouraged, last year passing the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 to encourage just that.
Unfortunately, various government agencies themselves have become self-interested parties in this game. In particular, the Snowden disclosures revealed that many government agencies conduct extensive surveillance on citizens, which arguably not only undermine our privacy but compromise our entire information security infrastructure.
These agencies, including the FBI in the current case, may have good intentions, but all of this has finally given profit-maximizing companies the right incentives they need to do what the regulators once wanted. Private businesses now have little incentive to get caught up in the bad press that usually follows disclosures like Snowdens, so its no wonder they want to convince their customers that their data are safe and secure, even from the government.
With cybersecurity becoming a tool for government agencies to wage war with other nation-states, it is no surprise that companies want to share less, not more, even with their own governments.
The Battle Ahead
This case is obviously very specific. I suspect that, in this narrow case, Apple and law enforcement agencies will find a compromise.
But the Apple brand has likely strengthened. In the long run, its loyal customers will reward it for putting them first.
However, this question is not going away anywhere. With the Internet of things touted as the next big revolution, more and more devices will capture our very personal data including our conversations.
This case could be a precedent-setting event that can reshape how our data are stored and managed in the future. But at least for now, some of the companies appear to be or least say they want to be on our side in terms protecting our privacy.
YouTube is the most popular place online to watch videos, and you can find pretty much any kind of content.
It’s opened the door for us to be able to see into the lives of anyone with a camera who wants to document what happens every day. An incredibly popular genre on YouTube is the “family vlog,” or video blogs about a family’s antics. Sometimes they just follow whatever happens, and sometimes they’re more controlled or scripted. Either way, it’s a cool way to get to know what other families are up to.
One such family vlog is called DaddyOFive, and with more than 750,000 subscribers, they’re incredibly popular and make money on ad revenues. After one of their recent videos, however, people are raising concerns that this family might be an abusive one.
In this screenshot from a now-deleted video, the parents are yelling and cursing at one of their children after finding ink all over his carpet. This was actually a “prank” set up by the parents, who eventually tell the boy that it’s not real after he becomes visibly distressed.
Many were shocked by the video, claiming it constituted emotional abuse, which put a spotlight on some of the family’s other pranks, too. Often they involve cursing at or belittling the children, and they can even get violent.
The parents claim that everyone is in on the joke and that the children receive far more benefits from their YouTube participation than negative effects. Furthermore, they say Child Protective Services has already visited their home and cleared them of any wrongdoing.
Careful subscribers are quick to point out, however, that one of their children often bears the brunt of the jokes. Cody winds up being hit by his siblings and cries about not wanting to be filmed or blamed for things he didn’t do in the “pranks.” It’s upsetting to see a child so clearly hurt by these actions. If you look closely at this image, you can see what looks like blood on his pillow.
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Change.org, the global hub for collective action, is a crucial democratizing force in this era of growing civic participation, wrote Reid Hoffman on LinkedIn. It helps enable a world where you dont need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you.
The organization was founded in 2007 by CEO Ben Rattray. Since then, almost200 million people around the world have used the site to raise awareness for arange ofcauses, includinghuman rights, the environment, education and health issues.
Rattray wrote a post about the global mission. We are in the early stages of the development of a new, more participatory form of democracy, and in order to realize the potential that technology has to transform civic engagement, we need to build tools that give us wider reach and enable deeper involvement, he said.
The proverbial tongue-in-cheek in Silicon Valley is that people want to buildthings that change the world. This one actually does.
This isnt the first time that Hoffman bet on the Change.org team.In 2014, hewas part of a large group of high-profile investors, including Richard Branson, Ashton Kutcher and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams.
How I Ditched Debt: Making Sense of Cents Nasdaq Schroeder-Gardner, now 28, says she and Wesley, who works on the blog with her, make money through advertising, affiliate marketing arrangements with companies that pay for referrals, and her online course on how to make money from blogging.