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Wanted - Australian spies who love to shop

Written by: Staff

CANBERRA, March 21 (Reuters) Australia's top intelligence agency is promoting the chance to go shopping during work as one of the benefits of working as a spy, using case studies from real agents to try to attract new recruits.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) wants to double its staff numbers by 2011 and has used testimonials from real agents, who it names as Andrew and Alison, to promote the benefits of the job.

''I'm like any girl in her 20s, I just can't talk about what I do,'' Alison says in an advertisement.

''Sometimes, when I'm out following a target who's gone shopping, I get to go shopping too. Or sometimes, as I'm passing through an area following a target, I might see something in a shop that I like and think to myself, hmmm ... I'll have to go back there.'' Alison says the job has not curbed her social life, but Andrew, a 40-year-old career agent, admits the work can be boring at times and tough on family life.

''Monitoring a target can get very tedious if you're just sitting in a car. But there were also periods of unbelievable excitement and adrenalin. I wouldn't have given that up for anything,'' he says.

The comments are part of a new marketing campaign, released by ASIO to a parliamentary inquiry, designed to show ASIO recruits agents from all walks of life and with varied interests.

The spy agency has almost doubled its staff numbers since the the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, with 1,009 staff by the end of 2005. It aims to recruit 250 new agents a year over the next four years. ((AUSTRALIA-SPIES, reporting by James Grubel, editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Reuters Messaging: james.grubel.reuters.comzreuters.net, +612 6273 2730)) REUTERS PR VC0955

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