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UK’s spy agency MI6 gets a new chief – here’s all about him

The SIS Building at Vauxhall Cross, London, houses the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6 (Laurie Nevay, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
July 29, 2020

British diplomat and intelligence official Richard Moore is set to take over the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as SIS or MI6.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced Moore’s appointment to lead the spy agency, Reuters reported on Wednesday. Moore was serving as the director general of political affairs at the U.K.’s Foreign Office and previously served as the MI6 director and as a U.K. national security adviser.

“He returns to SIS with tremendous experience and will oversee the work of a group of men and women whose tireless efforts are rarely seen in public, but which are critical for the security and prosperity of the U.K.,” Raab said.

MI6 is the U.K.’s primary foreign intelligence agency, performing intelligence gathering overseas. The agency lists its core mission focus as counter terrorism, disrupting hostile state activity and overseeing the U.K.’s cyber protections. The spy agency has also been popularized by spy films such as the James Bond series.

Moore joined the spy agency in 1987. Moore is married, with two children. As Reuters reported, his interests include golfing, hiking, scuba-diving, collecting Turkish carpets and porcelain, and visiting historical sites.

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“I am pleased and honored to be asked to return to lead my Service,” Moore said. “I look forward to continuing that work alongside the brave and dedicated team at SIS.”

Moore is replacing the current MI6 director, Alex Younger, who is set to step down in the Autumn, The Independent reported. Younger has served in the position since November of 2014.

“I pay tribute to Sir Alex Younger for everything he has done during his time leading the Secret Intelligence Service,” Raab said. “He has carefully and effectively guided the service during a time of increased and more diverse threats.”

Younger’s roughly six year tenure is longer than usual and Reuters reported Younger was kept in the position to ensure stability throughout political tumult brought on by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union during Brexit.

The U.K.’s intelligence activities are also important to U.S. national security interests. Both the U.K. and the U.S. are members of The Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance, which also includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Five Eyes alliance provides for broad intelligence sharing among the member countries, drawing from the intelligence findings of each country’s intelligence services, including MI6.

Moore was born in Libya and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxford University and was a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard. He has also served as British ambassador to Turkey from January 2014 to December 2017.