WE ARE THE NEWS NOW.
Q!!mG7VJxZNCI27 Apr 2019 – 11:25:06 AM
Soon To Be A HouseHold Name.
GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan quits
This article is more than 2 years old
Hannigan oversaw a more open approach at GCHQ after the Snowden revelations exposed mass surveillance by the agency
Ewen MacAskill Defence correspondent
Mon 23 Jan 2017 12.57 ESTFirst published on Mon 23 Jan 2017 10.15 EST
The director of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, is to stand down early for personal reasons, mainly health issues involving his wife and other family members.
Hannigan only took over at the UK’s surveillance agency in November 2014to oversee a more open approach after revelations by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden put GCHQ on the defensive in 2013.
His sudden resignation – he informed staff just hours before making this decision public – prompted speculation that it might be related to British concerns over shared intelligence with the US in the wake of Donald Trump becoming president.
But the GCHQ press release stressed his decision was exclusively for family reasons. As well as his ill wife, Hannigan has two elderly parents to look after. He will remain in post until a successor is appointed.
In a press statement, he said: “I have been lucky enough to have some extraordinary roles in public service over the last 20 years, from Northern Ireland to No 10, the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Office. But they have all demanded a great deal of my ever patient and understanding family and now is the right time for a change in direction.”Advertisement
Applications will be invited from within GCHQ and elsewhere in government. The salary last year was between £160,00 and £165,000.
At GCHQ, Hannigan had led a push to make the agency more transparent, a process that included a major speech in the US last year on encryption and tech companies. He also pressed to try to put GCHQ at the forefront of digital challenges, leading to the creation of the National Cyber Security Centre in October last year.
In his resignation letter to the Foreign Office, which is responsible for both GCHQ and the Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6, Hannigan said: “As you know, I have also initiated the greatest internal change within GCHQ for 30 years, and I feel that we are now well on the way to being fit for the next generation of security challenges to the UK in the digital age.
“After a good deal of thought I have decided that this is the right time to move on and to allow someone else to lead GCHQ through its next phase.”
The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, replied praising Hannigan for setting the groundwork for a major transformation of cyber defences.
Hannigan’s background was not initially in intelligence. Born in Gloucester in 1965 and brought up in Yorkshire, he had been a high-flying civil servant at the Northern Ireland Office, where he was head of communications and later political director. He was involved in the peace process, credited with coming up with the idea for a diamond-shaped table in order to get over objections by the opposing sides about seating arrangements.
He transferred to London where he became involved in a series of intelligence jobs, including defence and liaison with the US, before going on to GCHQ, where he worked for six months as part of the handover before taking control.
At the time, GCHQ, in spite of many of its secrets spilled by Snowden, remained the most secretive of the three intelligence agencies: the others being MI6 and MI5. But Hannigan expanded the press team, invited more journalists to visit GCHQ and encouraged a stream of news stories aimed at bringing the agency into the public eye.
In his first week in office, he created controversy with a column published in the Financial Times accusing US technology companies of becoming “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorists.
In March last year, he softened his criticism in a speech to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calling for a new relationship between the intelligence agencies and the tech companies, part of a campaign to try to secure the help of the companies in providing access to supposedly encrypted messages.
It is understood that the explanation for his sudden departure was reinforced in an internal message to GCHQ staff, acknowledging that many members faced enormous personal pressures and that he had opted to make his family his priority.