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Gb. Women at the top of intelligence

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Gb.  Women at the top of intelligence

by Giuseppe Gagliano

The role of women in the British security services is also growing significantly, as demonstrated by two recent high profile appointments for British security. Indeed, in May Anne Keast-Butler was appointed director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), while Madeleine Alessandri became director of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which she will de facto coordinate from 1 July. This body is a sort of interface between the security services and the decision-making process, and its task is to produce reports for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Before Keast-Butler, other women had risen to positions of responsibility within the intelligence community. Between 1992 and 1996, MI5 was led by Stella Rimington, followed by Eliza Manningham-Buller between 2002 and 2007. To date only SIS has not been led by a woman.
Keast-Butler spent the majority of her career at the national intelligence agency, MI5, also known as the Security Service, where she served as Deputy Director General. You follow in the footsteps of your predecessor at GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, who was also number two at MI5 before being promoted to head of the agency responsible for signals intelligence (SIGINT).
Keast-Butler was seconded to GCHQ for two years, where she led counter-terrorism and the fight against organized crime.
What challenges will the new director face? The first of these will certainly be to develop England’s IT capabilities. On the other hand, it should not be overlooked that the current director is a mathematician who graduated from Merton College, Oxford University in 1988. She inherits an organization that has gone beyond its original mandate to become the spearhead of cyber British. GCHQ oversees the National Cyber ​​Security Center (NCSC), which is responsible for cyber security. In this capacity, the NCSC plays a key role in strengthening government ties with the private sector.
Alongside the Ministry of Defense (MoD), GCHQ plays an instrumental role within the National Cyber ​​Force (NCF), the agency responsible for offensive cyber operations created in 2020. The NCF emerged from the shadows in April with the publication of a key document expounding his doctrine. Despite close ties, symbolized by the fact that NCF Director James Babbage hails from GCHQ, the agency responsible for cyber offensive operations is developing a hybrid civilian-military stance that is reducing GCHQ’s influence.
From a political point of view, the new director will have to strengthen ties with Parliament, in particular with the Intelligence and Security Committee. In fact, in its latest report, which was published in December 2022, the Committee severely criticized the level of cooperation and transparency of the agencies over which it exercises control.
In terms of international collaboration, there is no doubt that the cooperation between GCHQ and the US National Security Agency (NSA) can only be consolidated both in relation to the current war with Ukraine and in relation to the Chinese threat (at least for England and the United States).

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