John Sawers

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Since 2009, Sir John Sawyers (1955-) has been Director of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, MI6), with the traditional informal title of "C". His assignment, announced by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, was something of a surprise, as the tendency has been to promote within SIS; he replaced the retiring Sir John Scarlett. [1]

In his first speech as C, which also was the first public speech by any serving Director, he both denounced torture, but also spoke of the need for secrecy in intelligence. As a specific example, he was concerned about disclosure of the cooperation between SIS and the Central Intelligence Agency regarding a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Binyam Ahmed Mohammad. It is his view, not necessarily that of Her Majesty's Government, the courts should not have to release information. "Judges may see the information, but no one else, he seemed to suggest. To MI6's horror, in the Binyam Mohamed case the appeal court ruled that CIA information should be disclosed, albeit only in summary form."[2]

Prior career

He has spent his career in both intelligence and diplomatic posts; his immediately prior assignment was UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations (2007-2009). Prior to the UN, he was the Political Director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

He was assigned to the Middle East before that, as Ambassador to Egypt, and then Foreign Affairs Advier to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Before diplomatic duty, he was a member of the SIS, with foreign assignments including Yemen, Syria and South Africa.