Britain has a new “M” – the next head of MI6 has been unveiled.
Alex Younger has been appointed as successor to Sir John Sawers as chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), otherwise known as MI6, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
Described as a career SIS officer, Mr Younger has for the last two years been overseeing MI6’s intelligence operations worldwide.
He will take on the role fictionalised in Ian Fleming’s James Bond book and film series through the character M, most recently played by Judi Dench in Skyfall.
Mr Younger's appointment comes after a turbulent period for Britain's intelligence services following disclosures made by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
Mr Snowden’s revelations effectively triggered an unprecedented hearing of the Intelligence and Security Committee, in which the heads of MI6, the Security Service MI5 and listening post GCHQ appeared together in public for the first time.
Snowden supporters believe the release of top-secret documents exposed an abuse of powers among the security and intelligence services in the UK and US, while his detractors claim his actions aided terrorists.
Commenting on his appointment, Mr Younger said: “I am delighted and honoured to become chief of SIS and lead one of the best intelligence agencies in the world.
“Our dedicated staff work tirelessly against an array of threats that this country faces. They do so in close partnership with both MI5 and GCHQ with whom I am looking forward to co-operating closely.
“I would like to pay tribute to John Sawers for his lifetime’s dedication to the country and particularly to his time as C.
“He brought us into a new era, and I am determined to build on this and bring my ideas for a modern service to life.”