Director GCHQ’s valedictory speech
Press Release - 21 Oct 2014
An invited audience of officials, commentators and representatives from industry and academia were invited to hear Sir Iain Lobban's reflections on the profession to which he has devoted the past 31 years.
Sir Iain spoke of how the challenges have evolved over a career, which spans from the darkest days of the Cold War to the world today, which continues to be a dangerous and unpredictable place .
Drawing on the constants which connect today's GCHQ with the past, he emphasised that the work we do today remains as challenging as at any point in our history and can often be about life and death.
He also talked about the enormous exodus to the internet and how this new domain, although presenting new and unprecedented opportunities, has equally become a place where the less appealing aspects of human nature can flourish and cause harm, alongside the blessings there are the plotters, the proliferators and the paedophiles.
He spoke of how this presents new complex challenges for GCHQ, and the ongoing need to dissect with surgical precision fragments of information from the noise; vital information that our country needs to remain safe but always within the law. The people who work at GCHQ would sooner walk out the door than be involved in anything remotely resembling mass surveillance .
Sir Iain asserted that the public interest is served by some things remaining secret . He pointed to the quiet resolve of the men and women at GCHQ who, although recently have had their integrity repeatedly questioned, have responded with quiet determination to continue serving their country. Drawn from the population, they share their values with the nation, they are normal decent human beings people who spend their lives outside work shopping at Sainsbury's or the Co-op worrying about their kids, the weather, the football, cricket and rugby and what to have for tea. My staff are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job.
He concluded by cherishing his choice of career in the intelligence services and saluting the ongoing resolve of the intelligence profession to protect others from those that would do them harm. He said that this passion remains undiminished for him, alongside his pride of the ordinary men and women at GCHQ who made the same career choice and who he will now, as he moves on, sadly leave behind.
Notes for Editors
Sir Iain Lobban will retire from GCHQ on 24 Oct 2014 after six-and-a-half years as Director, and 31 years as intelligence professional. The new Director of GCHQ is Robert Hannigan.
Sir Iain plans to take a few months rest, walk the Cotswold Way and learn Spanish properly. He has not disclosed his future plans.