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News / Nation & World

1st woman to lead UK communications intelligence agency GCHQ

By Associated Press
Published: April 11, 2023, 8:27am

LONDON (AP) — Anne Keast-Butler, who has spent 30 years working in national security for Britain, was named Tuesday as the first woman to head the U.K.’s communications intelligence agency.

Keast-Butler, currently deputy director general at MI5, the domestic intelligence agency, will head the Government Communications Headquarters — better known as GCHQ. Her appointment comes as intelligence agencies focus on threats from Russia and China.

“Anne Keast-Butler has an impressive track record working at the heart of the U.K.’s national security network; helping to counter threats posed by terrorists, cyber-criminals and malign foreign powers,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in announcing her appointment.

In her current post, Keast-Butler has been responsible for operational, investigative and protective security work that included preparing for and responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Keast-Butler will start her new job in May, replacing Jeremy Fleming, who announced in January that he would step down after six years in the post.

She’s the first woman to lead a U.K. intelligence agency since Eliza Manningham-Buller retired from MI5 in 2007.

Keast-Butler said she was looking forward to returning to the agency where she previously worked as head of counter terrorism and serious organized crime.

GCHQ collects intelligence through communications to prevent cyber-attacks, terrorism and espionage.

“GCHQ’s mission to keep the U.K. safe is as inspiring today as it was when it was founded more than 100 years ago, operating at the very heart of the U.K. and our allies’ response to some of the most challenging issues of our time,” Keast-Butler said.

In the past year, the agency has provided intelligence on the Ukraine invasion, helped disrupt terror plots and tried to stop ransomware attacks, Keast-Butler said.