Spies keep a Goldeneye open in any language

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The Independent Online

Diplomatic Editor

For those in Whitehall who maintain that gentlemen do not spy on their friends, the advertisement from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) this week rather gives the game away.

The eavesdroppers say they are looking for linguists "at the front line of intelligence translating, transcribing and analysing information".

So far, so routine. But the list of languages in which GCHQ seeks recruits gives the strong impression that its business involves much more than keeping an eye on potential baddies who concoct their fiendish plots in Arabic, Chinese or Persian. GCHQ, it transpires, is just as interested in graduates who speak Japanese. Or Portuguese. Or Italian. Or, for heaven's sake, Dutch.

Well, in case it had escaped anyone's notice in Whitehall, we have not been at war with Japan since 1945. Portugal is our oldest ally. The Italians are not thought to have any secrets to keep. And the Dutch? Perhaps the secrets of running a sound economy despite a vanished empire are thought to be a prize beyond compare.

There are also vacancies for Spanish and German speakers, but those can be explained in two words (1) Argentina and (2) Suspicion. And linguists expert in "any rare language of potential interest to the department"are also invited to apply.