New GCHQ chief arrives in wake of UK-US wiretap spat
A senior intelligence officer who led counter-terrorism operations for the London 2012 Olympics has been appointed as head of the UK’s surveillance agency GCHQ.
Jeremy Fleming, who is deputy director of Britain’s domestic security agency MI5, is due to take up the post around Easter. He will succeed Robert Hannigan, who announced in January that he had decided to resign for personal reasons.
Fleming takes the helm at GCHQ as the UK faces a severe security threat level and a more difficult intelligence relationship with the United States, its closest security ally.
GCHQ was forced to break its traditional media silence after White House press secretary Sean Spicer last month accused it of wire-tapping Donald Trump during the US presidential election campaign. The agency dismissed the claims as “utterly ridiculous”.
Fleming, who joined MI5 from the private sector in 1993, has worked extensively on counter-terrorism both in Northern Ireland and against Islamist groups.
He joined the MI5 board with responsibility for technology in 2005. In 2007, he was seconded to the Home Office to serve as director of strategy for the newly-formed Office for Security and Counter Terrorism. On his return to MI5 he became director for intelligence collection, overseeing the expansion of MI5’s digital capabilities. Promotions to assistant director general and deputy director general followed in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
Fleming’s appointment as director of GCHQ was agreed by prime minister Theresa May following a recruitment process led by UK National Security Adviser Sir Mark Lyall Grant.
Commenting on his promotion, Fleming paid tribute to his predecessor Hannigan, who became GCHQ’s director in November 2014: “I look forward to building on his legacy, and in particular, the role he has played in increasing the transparency of GCHQ’s crucial work and in expanding its cyber mission through the work of the National Cyber Security Centre.”
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