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Director of the Government Communications Headquarters

The Director of the Government Communications Headquarters is the highest-ranking official in the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency that specialises in signals intelligence and cryptography. The director is a Permanent Secretary, and appointed by and reports to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.[1][2]

Though the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has ultimate responsibility within the British government for security matters and the intelligence agencies, the Foreign Secretary has day to day ministerial responsibility for GCHQ.[2] The Director of GCHQ is also a permanent member of the United Kingdom's National Security Council and the Cabinet Office's Joint Intelligence Committee.[2]

The role of the Director of GCHQ was outlined by the Intelligence Services Act 1994, in which the director is described as "...responsible for the efficiency of GCHQ".[3] The director's role is to ensure that:

(a) That there are arrangements for securing that no information is obtained by GCHQ except so far as necessary for the proper discharge of its functions and that no information is disclosed by it except so far as necessary for that purpose or for the purpose of any criminal proceedings; and (b) that GCHQ does not take any action to further the interests of any United Kingdom political party

The GCHQ director has become more publicly visible in the wake of the 2013 global surveillance disclosures. Sir Arthur Bonsall, director from 1973 to 1978, was the first director to speak publicly about his career at GCHQ when he was interviewed by the BBC in September 2013,[4] and Sir Iain Lobban testified before parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee in the wake of the disclosures in November 2013.[5] The director from 1989 to 1996, Sir John Adye, had previously spoken as a witness at the inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in February 2008 to deny that GCHQ had any involvement in the tape recordings that led to the "Camillagate" or "Squidgygate" scandals.[6]

Soon after taking on the role in 2014, Robert Hannigan authored under his own name an article in the Financial Times on the topic of internet surveillance.[7][8]

List of GCHQ directorsEdit

# Director Photo Term
1 Alastair Denniston CMG CBE Operational head 1921–1942
2 Sir Edward Travis KCMG CBE 1942–1952
3 Sir Eric Jones KCMG CB CBE 1952–1960
4 Sir Clive Loehnis KCMG 1960–1964
5 Sir Leonard Hooper KCMG CBE 1965–1973
6 Sir Arthur Bonsall KCMG CBE 1973–1978
7 Sir Brian John Maynard Tovey KCMG 1978–1983
8 Sir Peter Marychurch KCMG 1983–1989
9 Sir John Anthony Adye KCMG 1989–1996
10 Sir David Omand GCB 1996–1997
11 Sir Kevin Tebbit KCB CMG 1998
12 Sir Francis Richards KCMG CVO DL   1998–2003
13 Sir David Pepper KCMG 2003–2008
14 Sir Iain Lobban KCMG CB 2008–2014
15 Robert Hannigan CMG   2014–2017
16 Jeremy Fleming 2017–present

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Permanent Secretaries". Her Majesty's Civil Service.
  2. ^ a b c "Ministerial responsibility". GCHQ. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  3. ^ a b Philip Jones (17 August 2012). Public Law and Human Rights Statutes 2012–2013. Routledge. pp. 125–. ISBN 978-0-415-63390-1.
  4. ^ Steve Knibbs (8 September 2013). "Lifting the veil of secrecy on the intelligence service". BBC News Online. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  5. ^ "UK intelligence work defends freedom, say spy chiefs". BBC News Online. 7 November 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  6. ^ "GCHQ 'did not tap Diana's phone'". BBC News Online. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  7. ^ Robert Hannigan (3 November 2014). "The web is a terrorist's command-and-control network of choice". Financial Times. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  8. ^ Sam Jones and Murad Ahmed (3 November 2014). "Tech groups aid terror, says UK spy chief". Financial Times. Retrieved 3 November 2014.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit