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Cambridge woman Anne Keast-Butler to be first female director at GCHQ





A woman who grew up in Cambridge will become the first female head of GCHQ in more than 100 years of its history.

Anne Keast-Butler will become the first female boss of GCHQ when the current director steps down in May 2023. Picture: PA/GCHQ
Anne Keast-Butler will become the first female boss of GCHQ when the current director steps down in May 2023. Picture: PA/GCHQ

Anne Keast-Butler will take up the role in May when Sir Jeremy Fleming leaves after six years as head of the government’s intelligence organisation. She is currently MI5’s deputy director-general and will be the security agency’s 17th leader since its inception in 1919.

The married mother-of-three and dog lover, who grew up in Cambridge and has a maths degree from the University of Oxford, has spent 30 years working in national security.

She said she was “delighted” with her appointment which was announced by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

She said: “GCHQ’s mission to keep the UK safe is as inspiring today as it was when it was founded more than 100 years ago, operating at the very heart of the UK and our allies’ response to some of the most challenging issues of our time.

“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.

“I am so grateful for the vision and dedication Sir Jeremy Fleming has shown during his tenure, and the ways in which GCHQ has transformed under his leadership. I look forward to building on this in the months and years to come. I can’t wait to get started.

Before holding senior security service roles at MI5, Ms Keast-Butler spent two years on secondment to GCHQ as head of counter-terrorism and serious organised crime, and also worked in Whitehall over the last decade, helping to launch the National Cyber Security Programme.

Sir Jeremy said: “Anne’s appointment is fantastic news for the organisation. I have worked with Anne for decades and think she is a brilliant choice with deep experience of intelligence and security in today’s technology-driven world.”

James Cleverly, right, pictured with then Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority mayor James Palmer in Cambridge, announced Anne Keast-Butler will be the first female director at GCHQ. Picture: Keith Heppell
James Cleverly, right, pictured with then Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority mayor James Palmer in Cambridge, announced Anne Keast-Butler will be the first female director at GCHQ. Picture: Keith Heppell

Announcing the appointment, Mr Cleverly said: “Anne Keast-Butler 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. She is the ideal candidate to lead GCHQ, and Anne will use her vast experience to help keep the British public safe.”

And national security adviser Sir Tim Barrow said “I am glad to welcome Anne Keast-Butler’s appointment to Director GCHQ. Anne was the exceptional candidate in a talented field. She brings a wealth of experience from across the national security community, has the vision to take GCHQ into the future and will ensure that it continues its vital work to protect the UK.”

Ms Keast-Butler is the daughter of Brigid and John Keast-Butler. Her late father was a consultant ophthalmologist to Addenbrooke’s NHS Trust, Cambridge University Teaching Hospitals Trust and Saffron Walden Community Hospital, associate lecturer (medicine) at the University of Cambridge, and director of studies (clinical medicine) at Trinity College, Cambridge.



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