The deputy director-general of MI5 is the new chief of the UK’s ‘terror defence headquarters’.
'Privilege' posting: Jeremy Fleming
Former GCHQ director Robert Hannigan announced he was stepping down from the surveillance agency in January, citing pressures on his personal life.
Jeremy Fleming has been named head of the intelligence and security organisation in an announcement by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday (March 20).
He has worked at MI5 for at least 20 years and had a role managing security at the London 2012 Olympics.
His appointment comes as the agency publicly denied it helped former President Barack Obama “spy” on Donald Trump, calling the evidence-free allegations “utterly ridiculous”.
Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano alleged during a Fox & Friends broadcast Mr Obama had bypassed the US’ intelligence community and used the UK’s Cheltenham centre to monitor Mr Trump's communications.
The claim was repeated by White House press secretary Sean Spicer as he defended Mr Trump's claim Mr Obama "had my wires tapped".
A spokesperson for GCHQ said: "Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wire tapping' against the then-President elect are nonsense.
“They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
Mr Fleming’s first major challenge will reportedly be to maintain GCHQ’s relationship with US intelligence agencies.
Congratulating the incoming director, civil service chief Sir Jeremy Heywood said Mr Fleming was bringing two decades “experience of intelligence services” to the vital job of keeping the country safe.
Mr Johnson added that the “skill and ingenuity of the UK intelligence community are critical to defending Britain from cyber attacks, terror plots and other activities that threaten us and our allies”.
Mr Fleming, a career MI5 officer who has held the deputy director-general’s position since 2013, will be in a public-facing role for the first time once he takes up the post around Easter.
He said: “It is a great privilege to be asked to lead GCHQ as it approaches its centenary in 2019. The organisation has a distinguished past and an increasingly important role to play in keeping Britain safe in the digital age.
“From managing cyber risks posed by nation states to preventing terror attacks, keeping our children safe online and supporting our armed forces, the exceptional men and women of GCHQ operate on the new front line of global challenges.”
He paid tribute to Mr Hannigan, saying he has led the agency “through the transformation of some of our most important national security capabilities”.
The new appointment was made following a recruitment process chaired by National Security Adviser Sir Mark Lyall Grant.
He said Mr Fleming’s credentials for the post are of the “highest standard”, and the new GCHQ head is “widely respected across the national security community, in the UK and overseas”.