Mertonian Anne Keast-Butler becomes first female Director of GCHQ

Anne Keast-Butler (1988) has been announced as the new Director of GCHQ, becoming the first woman to lead the UK’s intelligence, cyber and security agency.

She succeeds Sir Jeremy Fleming, who announced in January he would be stepping down after six years. The recruitment process was chaired by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and has been made in agreement with the Prime Minister.

Anne Keast-Butler is currently serving as Deputy Director General of MI5, where she is responsible for MI5’s operational, investigative and protectives security work. This has included MI5's preparation for and response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Her new appointment was announced on Tuesday by the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who described her as “the ideal candidate to lead GCHQ”, saying that she "has an impressive track record at the heart of the UK's national security network, helping to counter threats posed by terrorists, cyber-criminals and malign foreign powers".

Keast-Butler has more than 30 years’ experience in the national security field and has held a number of key operational roles in MI5. She has also spent two years in GCHQ as head of counter-terrorism and serious organised crime, been on secondment in Whitehall, where she helped to launch the National Cyber Security Programme.

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office, Anne Keast-Butler said GCHQ’s mission to keep the UK safe was as inspiring today as it was when it was founded more than 100 years ago. She continued,

“In just the last year GCHQ has contributed vital intelligence to shape the west’s response to the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine; helped disrupt terrorist plots; and worked tirelessly to tackle the ongoing threat of ransomware, the impact of which costs the UK dearly. I was privileged to work in GCHQ a few years ago, so I know I am again joining a world-class team of people from diverse backgrounds with a broad range of skills, who share a singular focus on making our country safer, more secure, and more prosperous. I am passionate about continuing to ensure that GCHQ is an organisation where everyone can perform to their very best.”