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`KGB' takes over MI5 phone service

Would-be spies who replied to an overt advert for covert agents were surprised to be greeted at the other end of a phoneline yesterday by a message from Colonel Botch saying "MI5 are crap. This is the KGB".

It was all part of an elaborate joke believed to have been staged by someone calling in and electronically changing the message.

Security service advertisements this week handled by the recruitment agents Austin Knight attracted 20,000 calls. By noon yesterday the answering machine message was changed to say "due to the unprecedented response we cannot take anymore telephone requests" and asking applicants to send in CVs by post.

However, yesterday the message had been mysteriously altered to one from the good colonel frankly explaining the switch of power.

A Home Office spokeswoman said last night: "Clearly there is a fault on the line ... "