MI5 chief credited with ‘transforming the agency’ to step down
March 26, 2013 2 Comments
By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The head of MI5, Britain’s primary domestic intelligence agency, is to step down at the end of this month, it has been announced. Sir Jonathan Evans is widely credited with transforming MI5, also known as the Security Service, in one of the agency’s most turbulent periods following 9/11/2001. A career MI5 officer, Sir Jonathan entered MI5 in 1980 and eventually joined the agency’s G-Branch, which focuses on international counter-terrorism. He rose to lead G-Branch just 10 days before the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent launch of America’s ‘war on terrorism’. In 2005, Evans was faced with another major crisis as chief of G-Branch, when Britain suffered the bloody July 7 suicide attacks —also known as the 7/7 attacks— which killed 56 and injured nearly 1,000 people. Two years later, in 2007, he rose to the post of Director General at MI5, replacing Eliza Manningham-Buller (now Baroness Manningham-Buller), who had been only the second female intelligence officer to head the organization. Perhaps inevitably, considering world events, Evans helped steer MI5’s operational focus away from Irish republican groups and toward Islamist-inspired militancy in the United Kingdom and beyond. In early 2009, in a move that stunned some intelligence insiders, Evans gave the first public interview by a serving MI5 Director General in the organization’s 100-year history. He answered questions in a face-to-face interview with a carefully selected group of security correspondents representing a handful of British media outlets. The event was seen as reflecting a sea of change in the culture of MI5 —an agency that had never revealed the identities of its Director Generals until 1990. Later in the same year, however, Sir Jonathan caused controversy by suggesting during a public lecture that the intelligence extracted by torturing suspects after 9/11 had stopped “many attacks” on Western and other targets. He told an audience at the University of Bristol in England that MI5 had been right to cooperate with US and other intelligence agencies after 9/11, even if those agencies were known to routinely extract information from detainees through torture. Evans leaves behind an MI5 consisting of nearly 4,000 employees, a number far bigger than a decade-and-a-half ago, when the organization employed fewer than 2,000 people. There is considerable interest about who will succeed Sir Jonathan, as during the last 20 years MI5 Director Generals have been chosen from within the ranks of the agency. A spokesman for the British government said that Evans’ successor would be announced “in the near future”, following input by a specially appointed committee, the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister.