Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service
|Chief of the
Secret Intelligence Service
|Secret Intelligence Service|
|Appointer||Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs|
|Inaugural holder||William Melville
|Formation||Intelligence Services Act 1994|
The Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service serves as the head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also commonly known as MI6), which is part of the United Kingdom intelligence community. The Chief is appointed by the Foreign Secretary, to whom he directly reports. Annual reports are also made to the Prime Minister.
The chief of the Secret Intelligence Service typically signs letters with a "C" in green ink. This originates from the initial used by Captain Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming, RN, when he signed a letter "C" in green ink. Since then the chief has been known as 'C'.
From 1782 until 1909, British intelligence at the government level was handled directly by the Foreign Office, with the Army and Navy also maintaining their own intelligence branches. By 1909, growing tensions with Germany led the Committee of Imperial Defence to recommend the creation of the Secret Service Bureau to provide organization and leadership to the intelligence-gathering process as well as a layer of insulation from espionage activities for the Foreign Office. A 10 August 1909 letter from Alexander Bethell to then-Commander Mansfield Smith-Cumming offered him a "new billet": the opportunity to head the Foreign Section of the new Secret Service Bureau. Smith-Cumming was to begin in this role on 1 October 1909, but bureaucratic and funding obstacles delayed the start of his work. His first full day in this capacity was not until 7 October, and even then, he "went to the office and remained all day, but saw no one, nor was there anything to do there."
Smith-Cumming's tenure as chief established many of the traditions and trappings of the office. Among the best known of these, he signed documents with the initial "C" in green ink, a custom upheld throughout the history of the service. One tradition that was not maintained was the selection of the Chief from the ranks of the Royal Navy. Although Smith-Cumming and Sinclair both had long Navy careers, Army veteran Stewart Menzies was appointed over naval officer (and Churchill's preferred candidate) Gerard Muirhead-Gould. Plans to rotate the selection of Chief among the various branches of military service were considered, but most subsequent Chiefs have been career intelligence officers.
Although the existence of the Secret Intelligence Service, much less its Chief, was not officially acknowledged until 1992, the role's reality was an open secret for many years. In 1932, Compton MacKenzie was fined under the Official Secrets Act for elements of his book Greek Memories. Among these offences, according to Attorney General Sir Thomas Inskip was "reveal[ing] the mysterious consonant by which the Chief of the Secret Service is known." By 30 May 1968, however, The Times was willing to name Menzies as the "former Head of the Secret Intelligence Service" in his obituary. A 1989 House of Commons debate listed a number of publications in which information about the Chief and his organization had been revealed.
The 1994 Intelligence Services Act established a statutory basis for the Secret Intelligence Service and the position of Chief. Since then, the office has had more public visibility, including a speech by John Sawers in 2010 described as the first of its kind. The Chief remains the only member of the Secret Intelligence Service whose identity is made officially public.
A 2010 report revealed the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service was receiving a salary of £169,999 at that time.
List of Chiefs
Chiefs have been:
- 1909–1923 : Captain Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming, RN
- 1923–1939 : Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair
- 1939–1952 : Major-General Sir Stewart Menzies
- 1953–1956 : Major-General Sir John Sinclair
- 1956–1968 : Sir Richard White
- 1968–1973 : Sir John Rennie
- 1973–1978 : Sir Maurice Oldfield
- 1979–1982 : Sir Arthur (Dickie) Franks
- 1982–1985 : Sir Colin Figures
- 1985–1989 : Sir Christopher Curwen
- 1989–1994 : Sir Colin McColl
- 1994–1999 : Sir David Spedding
- 1999–2004 : Sir Richard Dearlove
- 2004–2009 : Sir John Scarlett
- 2009–2014 : Sir John Sawers
- 2014–present: Alex Younger
- "The Chief". Secret Intelligence Service. Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- Norton-Taylor, Richard (2009-06-17). "Every spy boss needs a cunning code letter .." The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
- Jeffery, Keith (21 September 2010). The Secret History of MI6. Penguin. ISBN 978-1594202742.
- ""Bethell letter"". Secret Intelligence Service. Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- Moore, Matthew. "MI6 boss Sir John Scarlett Still Signs Letters in Green Ink". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "Previous chiefs". Secret Intelligence Service. Archived from the original on 17 November 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- West, Nigel (26 October 2006). At Her Majesty's Secret Service: The Chiefs of Britain's Intelligence Agency, M16. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1591140092.
- Whitehead, Jennifer (13 October 2005). "MI6 to boost recruitment prospects with launch of first website". Brand Republic News. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
- "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 25 Jan 1989". Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- "Sir John Sawers, head of MI6: Full speech". BBC News. 28 October 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- "Quango chiefs' salaries revealed". BBC News. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
- "British civil servants" (PDF). Retrieved 25 October 2014.
- "MI6 officer Alex Younger named as new SIS chief". BBC News. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 3 October 2014.