FO director Robert Hannigan appointed as new GCHQ chief

Robert Hannigan

Robert Hannigan

Foreign office Director Robert Hannigan has been appointed as new chief of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the electronic eavesdropping agency that was scrutinised after leaks by former US analyst Edward Snowden. 

Mr Hannigan, 49, is currently serving at the post of FO director of defence and intelligence since 2010 and will replace Iain Lobban, who served as the head for six years. 

For a long time, Mr Hannigan sat on Britain’s joint intelligence committee, was principal adviser to Tony Blair, then prime minister, on the Northern Ireland peace process and was responsible for the U.K.’s first cyber security strategy.

The Foreign Office diplomat’s appointment has been agreed with Prime Minister David Cameron in consultation with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has said after making the announcement: Mr Hannigan owns “impressive personal qualities” and a “wealth of relevant experience in the fields of national security, counter-terrorism and international relations”.

Mr Hague has also admired Sir Lobban’s services by saying: “I’d also like to thank Sir Iain Lobban for his consistently strong and professional leadership as director of GCHQ since 2008.”

Mr Hannigan has stated at his appointment: “It is a privilege to be asked to lead GCHQ, an organisation which is so central to keeping the people of this country safe.

“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.”

Mr Hannigan will take over the role at the Cheltenham-based agency in the autumn.

There are also reports that Home Office counter-terrorism chief Charles Farr along with an unnamed senior MI6 spy were also shortlisted for the GCHQ role.

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