Anti-terrorist expert takes on new mission

Spymasters: The security service is undergoing change and its new head will come under pressure to make it more accountable
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Crime Correspondent

MI5's campaign to extend its influence and power is expected to continue under the new leadership of the Security Service.

Yesterday's announcement that David Lander, 48, an anti-terrorist expert and career civil servant, will replace Stella Rimington as director-general when she retires at Easter, will be greeted with some relief by the Security Service hierarchy.

Mr Lander, who was appointed by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, was Mrs Rimington's preferred choice and is known to be a supporter of her policy of expanding the service's role, following its reduced workload in the wake of the IRA ceasefire last year.

The former head of MI5's anti-terrorist squad and current director of corporate affairs was selected from a number of internal candidates and government employees. The pounds 90,000-a-year post was not advertised, although several outside candidates were considered. The service had feared that a senior police officer may have been in the running for the job.

Mr Lander takes over the post at a time of unprecedented change and will come under intense pressure from politicians and civil rights groups to make the service more accountable.

One of the key measures in this month's Queen's Speech was a commitment to introduce legislation which would expand the remit of the service to allow it to take on organised crime. MI5's current role centres on combating threats to national security and safeguarding the United Kingdom's economic well-being from foreign threats.

The new legislation will amend the 1989 Security Service Act to include action in support of the prevention and detection of serious crime as one of the service's functions. MI5 agents are expected to work alongside officers from the National Criminal Intelligence Service as part of a new national police body to fight organised crime.

Mr Lander will have to tackle the question of how agents, who rely on their anonymity, can continue to give evidence behind screens in more routine policing court cases.

Last night he said: "There remains much difficult work for us to do against traditional threats to this country such as those from terrorism and espionage, but the service is also looking forward to new arrangements building on long-standing collaboration with the law enforcement agencies which will involve us in helping them counter organised crime."

The other appointment yesterday was that of David Omand, 48, who will move rom the top post of deputy Under-Secretary of State for policy at the Ministry of Defence to take charge of GCHQ in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire - where he started his career.

A personable and highly regarded civil servant with an astute grasp of complex issues, he has effectively run British defence policy for the past three years.

Educated at Glasgow Academy and Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, Mr Omand, a married father of two, joined GCHQ in 1969. He later transferred to the MoD, where, in 1992, he became deputy Under-Secretary of State.