Britain picks diplomat to head spy agency

April 16, 2014 - 8:26:21 am

LONDON: Britain said yesterday it had picked a diplomat to head its GCHQ eavesdropping agency which has found itself under unprecedented public scrutiny because of documents leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Britain announced in January that the agency’s current chief, Iain Lobban, would be standing down after six years in charge of Britain’s equivalent of America’s National Security Agency (NSA). 

The 53-year-old’s departure was announced after he had publicly defended the legality of GCHQ’s work, denying it conducted illegal mass surveillance. Officials said his leaving had nothing to do with the fallout from the leaked documents.

Yesterday, Britain’s Foreign Office announced that Robert Hannigan, a senior diplomat responsible for defence and intelligence issues, would become the new head of GCHQ and would start in the autumn. 

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Hannigan, 49, had the right mix of experience for the role.  

“As well as his impressive personal qualities, Robert brings to the job a wealth of relevant experience in the fields of national security, counter-terrorism and international relations,” said Hague. 

Hannigan advised former prime minister Tony Blair on the peace process in Northern Ireland and liaised with the US government on the issue.

Murder charges filed in Kansas shootings 

WASHINGTON: Prosecutors filed a death penalty murder charge yesterday against a white supremacist accused of fatally shooting three people at Jewish sites over the weekend, judicial sources said.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, was charged with one count of capital murder for the deaths of a 69-year-old physician and his teenaged grandson outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. He also faces one count of first-degree murder for the death of a 53-year-old woman at the nearby Village Shalom retirement community where she was paying a weekly visit to her mother.

Cross was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday at 1.30pm (1830 GMT), a spokeswoman for Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe said by telephone.

Sunday’s bloodshed — on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover — occurred in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park.  All three victims were Christian.

Local police, FBI agents and federal prosecutors said on Monday they intended to pursue Cross for hate crimes, which under federal law calls for tougher sentencing.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League described Cross as a North Carolina native and former US army Green Beret commando who, in the 1980s, founded and led the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party.