A SPYMASTER who has tracked Al-Qaeda’s activities in Britain since the organisation first emerged as a threat to Britain is frontrunner to be the next head of MI5.
Sources said Jonathan Evans, senior deputy director-general of the security service, was a “racing certainty”? to take over from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, who surprised Whitehall last week by announcing that she would be stepping down early from the top job.
Sources said she had decided to quit in anticipation that she might be asked to resign over blunders concerning last year’s July 7 bombings.
Evans is a career spy with a background in fighting terror. He served as head of G branch, MI5’s international terrorism section, making him the agency’s then supremo in dealing with the emerging Al-Qaeda threat. Before that he served as a senior officer in Northern Ireland, helping to spearhead the fight against the IRA.
The Home Office maintained last week that there was nothing unusual about Manningham-Buller’s decision to leave after only four years in the job.
In her leaving statement she insisted that she had decided in “early 2005”? that it would be time to stand down by April 2007. But Whitehall officials said that the announcement had come as a “surprise”?.
Insiders and security experts see it as a “pre-emptive strike”? linked to forthcoming revelations concerning how much her agency knew about the intentions of the July 7 suicide bombers in the 18 months before the attacks.
The sources said that the agency was bracing itself for detailed disclosures about its intelligence on Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shezhad Tanweer, the two leading bombers who killed 52 people. The Sunday Times and other media are prevented by court orders from making this evidence public.
The sources said that Manningham-Buller’s decision to step down was unlikely to head off widespread public criticism of the spy agency: “She knows she will be asked to resign over this. She was protected by Charles Clarke (the former home secretary) but some people believe that if things go badly wrong John Reid (his successor) will be happy to slit her throat.”?
In his statement on her departure, Reid was fulsome in his praise. “Her contribution to the security of our nation has been invaluable and I pay tribute to her unstinting efforts,”? he said.
The Home Office will this week begin circulating advertisements for her replacement. Reid will make the final choice, expected to be announced by the end of next month. However, security sources are already tipping Evans to take over in April. As deputy, he has had daily responsibility for oversight of the service’s operational work.
Evans is highly respected as a spymaster. A source said: “He is very switched on. He’s dynamic, confident, a natural leader. He’s a gifted communicator. He’s very comfortable with himself and is good with ministers and mixing at the top table. But he is also very personable. He’s good at dealing with staff in a hail-fellow-well-met sort of way.”?
Evans is also said to have a formidable intellect: “He grasps the material and can make a quick decision. He has gravitas but he’s also got a very relaxed style.”?
Former MI5 bosses including Dame Stella Rimington and Sir Stephen Lander have taken on part-time business directorships or public appointments, but Manningham-Buller is understood to want to spend more time on her 70-acre farm with her husband, a university academic.
They keep chickens and alpaca, the llama-like South American animal reared in Britain mainly for its wool. “She’s keen on hens and organic eggs,”? said a colleague. “But she’s also very much in love with her husband. They are looking forward to spending more time together.”?
Originally Posted HERE