Robert Hannigan, the director of UK spy agency GCHQ, has announced that he will resign from the agency.
GCHQ announced the news in a blog post on January 23. It said that Hannigan will leave his job once a successor has been chosen for the role.
“There will be an internal competition within Government to identify candidates to succeed Mr Hannigan,” the spy agency said. “In the meantime the Director and Board will continue to oversee all the department’s work.”
GCHQ is the high-tech spy agency that deals with signal interception, and is the British equivalent of America’s National Security Agency (NSA).
Here’s Hannigan’s letter announcing his decision to step down:
“Dear Foreign Secretary,
I have had the great privilege of leading the men and women of GCHQ since 2014. I am proud of what we have achieved in those years, not least setting up the National Cyber Security Centre and building greater public understanding of our intelligence work. I am equally proud of the relentless 24 hour operational effort against terrorism, crime and many other national security threats. While this work must remain secret, you will know how many lives have been saved in this country and overseas by the work of GCHQ. Underpinning this is our world-class technology and, above all, our brilliant people. As you know, I have also initiated the greatest internal change within GCHQ for thirty 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. I am, like you, a great enthusiast for our history and I think it is right that a new Director should be firmly embedded by our centenary in 2019. I am very committed to GCHQ’s future and will of course be happy to stay in post until you have been able to appoint a successor.
I have been lucky enough to have some extraordinary roles in public service over the last twenty 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.
I want to thank you and the many Ministers I have served over the years, and to thank the Prime Minister and her three predecessors, for the opportunities I have been given. I have worked with outstanding people, whether politicians or Crown Servants, and none more so than in GCHQ. I am very confident that they will continue to achieve even greater things in the future.
With very best wishes.”
And here’s the foreign secretary’s response:
“Thank you for your letter of 23 January and for your service as Director of GCHQ since 2014.
You have led the renewal of some of our most important national security capabilities, which we continue to depend on every day to save lives from terrorism and to protect our interests and values. You also set the groundwork for a major transformation of our cyber defences, and put GCHQ on a path to meet the challenges of the future with your focus on technology and skills.
Following your successful tenure, and thanks to the work of thousands of excellent GCHQ staff, the organisation is well placed to play its part continuing to protect our nation.
I wish you the very best for your future career.”
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