GCHQ appoints first woman to lead UK spy agency

Anne Keast-Butler has been named the brand new head of GCHQ, changing into the primary lady to steer Britain’s cyber intelligence spy company.

Keast-Butler, who’s deputy director of MI5, the UK’s home intelligence service, will take up her position in Might. She’s going to succeed Sir Jeremy Fleming, who introduced in January he was stepping down after six years.

“Anne . . . brings a wealth of expertise from throughout the nationwide safety group, has the imaginative and prescient to take GCHQ into the long run and can make sure that it continues its very important work to guard the UK,” nationwide safety adviser Sir Tim Barrow mentioned in an announcement.

GCHQ has had 16 chiefs, all of them males, because it was based in 1919 when it was often called the Authorities Code and Cypher Faculty.

Keast-Butler’s appointment leaves MI6, the overseas safety company, as the one one of many UK’s three essential intelligence providers, by no means to have had a feminine chief. MI5 appointed its first lady, Stella Rimington, as director-general in 1992 adopted by Eliza Manningham-Buller a decade later.

The UK’s nationwide cyber safety centre, which is a part of GCHQ and offers recommendation and assist for the personal and public sectors on easy methods to keep away from laptop safety threats, additionally has a feminine chief, Lindy Cameron.

Keast-Butler mentioned: “I used to be privileged to work in GCHQ a number of years in the past, so I do know I’m once more becoming a member of a world-class group of individuals from various backgrounds with a broad vary of abilities who share a singular concentrate on making our nation safer, safer, and extra affluent.”

As MI5 deputy director, Keast-Butler was chargeable for the company’s operational, investigative and protecting safety work, together with its response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Fleming held the identical place at MI5 earlier than he was appointed GCHQ chief in 2017, and Keast-Butler was broadly tipped to succeed him.

“Anne’s appointment is implausible information for the organisation,” Fleming mentioned. “I’ve labored with Anne for many years and assume she is an excellent alternative with deep expertise of intelligence and safety in right now’s technology-driven world.”

Anna Brailsford, chief govt of Code First Women, a supplier of free coding programs for ladies, mentioned: This can be a momentous second for ladies’s illustration. Variety in cyber safety is essential as a result of we want an actual mixture of minds to supply options to oncoming threats and guarantee our personal programs are unpredictable.”

Dan Lomas, lecturer in intelligence and safety research at Brunel College in London, mentioned the appointment of a girl to go GCHQ was “vastly important”, including it was “additionally important that Keast-Butler follows Fleming’s path from MI5 . . . Whitehall hyperlinks matter”.

With 30 years of expertise in British intelligence, Keast-Butler beforehand labored as director of basic technique at MI5, overseeing the capabilities that assist its operations. Previous to that, she spent two years on secondment to GCHQ as head of counter terrorism and severe organised crime, with different spells inside Whitehall.

Analysts mentioned that among the many challenges dealing with her in her new position is easy methods to differentiate GCHQ’s conventional intelligence work, which is often gathered from satellites and communications intercepts, from the customarily extremely detailed open-source intelligence that’s now broadly obtainable on the internet.

Keast-Butler holds a level in arithmetic from Merton School at Oxford college and is married with three youngsters.

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