The director of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, has decided to step down early for what he described as personal reasons, the intelligence agency has announced.
Hannigan took over at GCHQ in November 2014 to oversee a more open approach after the agency was forced on the defensive the previous year by the Edward Snowden revelations of mass surveillance. He will stay in post until a successor is appointed.
Until Hannigan’s appointment, GCHQ, which handles intelligence derived from communications, had been one of the most secretive bodies in the UK. He started a process of public engagement, including making public speeches.
In a resignation letter to the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who oversees the agency, 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. 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.”