Britain hires dyslexic spies in anti-terror campaign

PTI London | Updated on November 27, 2017 Published on September 21, 2014

Britain’s main surveillance agency is employing over 100 afflicted with dyslexia and dyspraxia as spies in the country’s fight against terror.

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), referred to as the UK’s listening post, uses the ability of these “neuro-diverse” spies to analyse complex information in a “dispassionate, logical and analytical” way to combat threats.

“Neuro-diverse individuals can bring additional value to the full spectrum of roles and jobs across the department,” a GCHQ official told the Sunday Times.

While dyslexics find it hard to read, write or interpret words, they often have an extraordinary aptitude for deciphering facts from patterns or events.

A famous person with the condition was Alan Turing, who during the Nazi onslaught in the Second World War helped Britain break the enemy’s top-secret Enigma code.

Dyspraxia is a developmental coordination disorder (DCD) which affects physical coordination and can be found in about one in 20 children in the UK. Dyslexia affects about 10 per cent of the UK population.

IT specialist Matt is chairman of the dyslexic and dyspraxic support community at GCHQ, which supports the 120 “neuro-diverse” staff employed by the agency.

“What people don’t realise is that people with neuro-diversity usually have a ‘spiky-skills’ profile, which means that certain skill areas will be below par and others may be well above,” the 35-year-old told the newspaper.

“My reading might be slower than some individuals and maybe my spelling is appalling, and my handwriting definitely is. But if you look at the positive side, my 3D special-perception awareness and creativity is in the top 1 per cent of my peer group,” he added.

Despite the veil of secrecy that still surrounds much of its work, GCHQ insists it is trying to modernise and the stereotypical method of recruiting spies at Oxford or Cambridge with a “tap on the shoulder” is a thing of the past. GCHQ has instead sent 80 intelligence officers, or “ambassadors”, to 20 primary and secondary schools to encourage pupils to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It will begin its annual autumn recruitment campaign from tomorrow. As well as targeting university entrants and graduates, the agency wants to hire between 40 and 80 apprentices aged 18 and over.

Published on September 21, 2014
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