UK chooses new spy chief

The UK has chosen its next overseas spy chief. Come November, John Sawers, who is currently Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, will be heading up England’s international intelligence agency, MI6 – the UK equivalent of the CIA.

The current MI6 spy chief, John Scarlett, hasn’t been the most savvy at turning the fickle tide of publicity in his favor. Of course, MI6’s involvement in drafting the briefing that supported the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq didn’t help Scarlett’s popularity case.

John SawersSawers, 52, has a rather impressive resume. In addition to his present ambassadorship to the UN, he was a key foreign policy adviser to former Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1999 to 2001. During this time, he played a significant role in managing the Kosovo crisis and the Northern Ireland peace process. Sawers has also been an ambassador to Egypt and South Africa and has completed diplomatic assignments in Baghdad and Washington, D.C.

This winter, he will be taking over the helm of an espionage organization whose focus has shifted dramatically, from combating the spread of Soviet-style communism to keeping an ever-watchful eye on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

According to the BBC, MI6’s choice of future leader is an indicator of a changing intelligence landscape. Gone are the days of such extreme secrecy, during which even John Scarlett’s identity was kept under wraps – he was known to the British public only by the code-letter “C.” His successor is the opposite – very much a public figure who’s excelled in roles requiring international prowess; he is highly recognizable both at home and abroad.

images courtesy of and

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