The deputy director general of MI5 has been named as the new head of GCHQ.
Jeremy Fleming will succeed Robert Hannigan as director of the agency often referred to as Britain’s listening post.
His appointment was announced on Monday by the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who said he was a “dedicated public servant whose work over two decades in the intelligence services has helped to keep our country safe”.
Congratulating Fleming, Johnson said 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”.
Fleming, a career MI5 officer, will occupy 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.
Jeremy Fleming. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
“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 frontline of global challenges.”
He paid tribute to Hannigan, who announced he was stepping down after two years as director in January, saying he has led the agency “through the transformation of some of our most important national security capabilities”.
Hannigan said: “I’m delighted that the foreign secretary has appointed Jeremy Fleming to be the new director.
“I’ve known Jeremy for many years and he is a great friend and colleague. He comes with deep intelligence experience and expertise.”
Fleming joined the government from the private sector in 1993. His career at MI5 included leading its preparations for the London 2012 Olympics.
The appointment comes after GCHQ was sensationally drawn into claims Barack Obama used British intelligence to spy on Donald Trump. The allegations drew a rare public denial by the agency, which described them as “utterly ridiculous”.
GCHQ’s activities have taken on particular significance in recent years as terrorists use increasingly sophisticated technology to avoid detection.
Fleming will also oversee the agency’s efforts to counter the threat from hackers amid mounting concern over the danger posed by cyber-attacks. And he will be expected to continue a transparency drive launched after the agency came under intense scrutiny following revelations by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
The appointment, which was signed off by the prime minister, followed a recruitment process chaired by the national security adviser, Sir Mark Lyall Grant. Grant said Fleming had emerged from a “strong and competitive field as the outstanding candidate”.
He added: “He is a national security professional of the highest standard, who is widely respected across the national security community, in the UK and overseas.”