Robert Hannigan

Robert Hannigan

Former Director, Government Communications Headquarters, United Kingdom

Robert Hannigan was Director of GCHQ, the UK's largest intelligence and security agency and NSA equivalent, from 2014-17. He played a key role in the formation of the UK Investigatory Powers Act 2016, new legislation covering all aspects of surveillance in the UK.

He is a leading authority on cyber security, cyber conflict and the application of technology in national security. Robert established the National Cyber Security Centre as part of GCHQ in 2016, having been responsible for the UK's cyber strategy in 2009, the first of any Western country. He set the Government's long term ambition of making the UK 'the safest place to live and do business online' and was also responsible for leading, with military colleagues, the national offensive cyber programme.

Robert spent much of his government career in national security. He was the Prime Minister's Security Adviser at No10 from 2007-10, with a particular focus on Islamist terrorism, and was responsible in the Cabinet Office for the Single Intelligence Account (covering MI5, GCHQ and SIS). He chaired 'COBR' through numerous crises and was a longstanding member of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which he chaired in 2011-12. As Director General for Defence and Intelligence in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, he was the lead adviser on counter-proliferation and other defence policy areas, as well as advising Foreign Secretary William Hague on intelligence policy and operations. He came to London from Belfast, where he was Tony Blair's senior official on the Northern Ireland peace process, responsible for negotiations with political parties, paramilitaries and with the Irish and US Governments.

Robert caused international controversy on his first day as director of GCHQ in 2014 by criticising Silicon Valley companies in the Financial Times, but he has also spoken at MIT in defence of strong encryption and US technology leadership. He has a particular interest in Bletchley Park and the history of technology, computing and cryptology. He is a member of the UK Government's new Defence Innovation Advisory Panel.

He was awarded the US Intelligence Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2017 and honoured by Queen Elizabeth for services to UK national security in 2013.