A Foreign Office Mandarin has been named as the new chief of Britain’s eavesdropping service, GCHQ
Robert Hannigan will take over from Sir Iain Lobban when he steps down this autumn after six years as director.
Unlike Sir Iain, who since 1983 has risen through the ranks at the Cheltenham-based intelligence unit to become the head of GCHQ in June 2008, Hannigan is more of an outsider coming from the Foreign Office. However he does have the necessary security service experience.
Since 2010, Hannigan has been the Director General, Defence and Intelligence at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. And for a number of years he has advised the Prime Minister on counter terrorism, intelligence and security policy. He was also responsible for the UK’s first Cyber Security Strategy.
“I am delighted that Robert Hannigan has been appointed as the next Director of GCHQ. GCHQ’s world-class work is vital to the safety and security of the United Kingdom,” said Foreign Secretary William Hague. “As well as his impressive personal qualities, Robert brings to the job a wealth of relevant experience in the fields of national security, counter-terrorism and international relations. I’d also like to thank Sir Iain Lobban for his consistently strong and professional leadership as Director of GCHQ since 2008.
It is a privilege to be asked to lead GCHQ, an organisation which is so central to keeping the people of this country safe,” said Robert Hannigan about his appointment. “I have great respect for the integrity and professionalism of the staff of GCHQ and for what they have achieved under the outstanding leadership of Iain Lobban. I am excited about meeting the challenges of the coming years with them.”
It is fair to say that Iain Lobban has been one of the most high profile bosses of GCHQ in recent years. Three years ago in 2011, he surprised many when he publicly complained that GCHQ was losing cyber security ‘whizz kids’ to the likes of Google and Amazon because it could not match corporate salaries.
Lobban had also previously warned that cyber attacks on the government and industry systems had reached “disturbing” levels, and he said that intellectual property theft could damage the “UK’s continued economic wellbeing”.
But perhaps Lobbaan gained the most publicly when he joined his counterparts, the heads of MI5 and M16, in a rare public appearance last November before MPs on the Intelligence and Security Committee.
The three heads of Britain’s intelligence services were under pressure following the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who had revealed the widespread spying carried out by GCHQ and the US National Security Agency. Needless to say, they did not approve of the leaks.
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