The deputy chief of MI5, who led the investigation which foiled an al-Qa’ida plot to blow up transatlantic airliners, has been appointed the new head of the service. Andrew Parker will replace the current director-general, Sir Jonathan Evans, who is stepping down next month.
Within seven months of being chosen as the head of the Security Service’s international terrorism division in February 2005, Mr Parker, a keen ornithologist and wildlife photographer, had to deal with the London bombings, followed by a series of other major plots by Islamist extremists. MI5 was accused by some critics of failing to keep track of Mohammad Sidique Khan, who they had been aware of as being involved in jihadist activities, but the Service was exonerated by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee.
The attempt to blow up 10 passenger jets in 2006 flying from the UK to USA and Canada using liquid explosives was one of the most audacious conspiracies put together by Islamists. MI5 officers placed surveillance equipment after secretly entering the home of one of the suspects, a British Pakistani, which led to the arrest of 24 suspects.
Mr Parker, 50, had also been based in the US to carry out liaison with the FBI and CIA and had been on secondment to Customs & Excise as Director Intelligence before serving as Director for Northern Ireland terrorism, Protective Security & Serious Crime.
Mr Parker was seen as a strong contender for the chief’s post and although a number of outside candidates were considered, his appointment continues the Security Service’s tradition of choosing its head from within, as was the case with the last four director-generals. The last one to be chosen from outside the service was Sir Anthony Duff who was appointed at the age of 65 to carry out sweeping reforms within the organisation after scathing criticism by the Security Commission following the conviction on Michael Bettany, a MI5 officer was convicted of trying to pass secrets to the Soviet embassy in London.
Mr Parker holds a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University, and is married with two children. He said last night: “It is a great honour to be appointed Director General of MI5. I am extremely proud of the extraordinary work that the men and women of MI5 do to keep the country safe in challenging circumstances. I look forward to leading the Service through its next chapter.”
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said: “The appointment of Andrew Parker as the new DG of the Security Service, a role to which he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge. Under his leadership the Service will continue to stay ahead of global and domestic threats to our national security and further develop its reputation as one of the world’s most effective security agencies.” The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, said: “He brings his deep knowledge and experience of all aspects of the Service and its operations to this role and will be a great leader of the Service, working collaboratively with its partners. I look forward to working with him in his new role.”