MPs shaken and stirred by Bond spy chief's tweets
13th December 2022

MPs shaken and stirred by Bond spy chief’s tweets: Intelligence committee warns MI6 boss his social media presence risks ‘trivialising’ security services’ role in keeping the country safe

  • MI6 boss Richard Moore has been chastised in a new intelligence report by MPs
  • He and MI5 and GCHQ counterparts told to go easy on media for good of service
  • Intelligence and Security Committee cited risk of ‘trivialising’ Agencies’ work

For years the identity of the head of MI6 was a closely guarded secret.

The Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, known as ‘C’, was responsible for leading Britain’s espionage efforts and lived very much in the shadows.

But the current incumbent has earned a mild rebuke from MPs for courting too much publicity and using social media in an official capacity.

Richard Moore has been chastised in a new report which warns him and his MI5 and GCHQ counterparts to go easy on Twitter and media appearances for the good of the service. 

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) – made up of senior MPs and peers – said today they risked undermining the UK’s intelligence efforts with their efforts to bring their organisations into the 21st Century. 

In a new report today the committee, chaired by Tory Julian Lewis, said they were ‘increasingly making appearances in the media, with a far higher profile than their predecessors’.

Citing ‘the Chief of SIS’s Twitter account’ alongside interviews and podcasts given by service chiefs, they added: ‘While the Committee recognises the important role public outreach can play in attracting employees by opening up about the culture and working practices in such secret organisations, it must be undertaken in a strategic and considered manner. 

‘The Committee is concerned that, if media engagement strategies go too far, they risk trivialising the important work of the Agencies and diverting their focus from national security priorities. 

Richard Moore has been chastised in a new report which warns him and his MI5 and GCHQ counterparts to go easy on Twitter and media appearances for the good of the service.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) – made up of senior MPs and peers – said today they risked undermining the UK’s intelligence efforts with their efforts to bring their organisations into the 21st Century.



MI6 was the home of the fictional spy James Bond, with C known as ‘M’ in the franchise, and played by actors including (L-R) Bernard Lee, Dame Judi Dench (with Daniel Craig as Bond) and, most recently, Ralph Fiennes

On His Majesty’s Not-So-Secret Service

Richard Moore has been head of MI6 since 2020, but has made several high-profile media appearances in the last two years.

He has almost 150,000 followers on Twitter at the @chiefMI6 account. 

In February 2021 he used the platform to apologise for the agency’s past treatment of LGBT+ people, adding they had deprived themselves of the ‘best talent’ Britain can offer.

He said a security bar on some individuals, which remained in place until 1991, was ‘wrong, unjust and discriminatory’.

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Moore explained the ban was in place because of a misguided belief LGBT+ people were more susceptible to blackmail.

In November last year he used a landmark speech to set out the dangers of failing to respond to the pace of technological change. 

He warned the pace of technological advance, from artificial intelligence to quantum computing, means the agencies can no longer simply devise their own solutions to meet the challenges.

In a rare public address, he acknowledged that a ‘sea change’ was required  in the culture of his organisation which has traditionally prioritised secrecy above all else.

The 59-year-old joined MI6 in 1987 where he ‘undertook a range of roles across the Service both in the UK and overseas,’ according to his official profile.

He went on to serve as the UK’s ambassador to Turkey between 2014 and 2017 and took on the SIS role – replacing Alex Younger – after being director general of political affairs at the Foreign Office.

He was born in Libya and is married with two children.

His official biography notes interests in playing golf and watching cricket and rugby’. He also speaks fluent Turkish.

He was educated at St George’s College in Surrey – a Roman Catholic school – before reading philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University.

‘Social media is also known to be a battleground for covert hostile state action, so any enhanced media engagement should not undermine the Agencies’ ability to act covertly and keep the UK safe.’

MI6 was the home of the fictional spy James Bond, with C known as ‘M’ in the franchise, and played by actors including Bernard Lee, Dame Judi Dench and, most recently, Ralph Fiennes.

But not everyone agreed with the MPs.

Ciaran Martin, an Oxford Academic and former head of the National Cyber Security Centre, tweeted: ‘Don’t think I’m alone in struggling to see the connection the ISC appears to be making here. 

‘I can’t see any real-world, practical way in which activity like ‘C’ having a Twitter account, or the other heads giving interviews, affects the intel agencies’ ability to act covertly.’

Britain’s intelligence agencies were also rebuked for failing to provide information on time to the parliamentary watchdog overseeing their work.

The committee said its work has been ‘severely hampered’ over the past year due to the agencies’ failure to meet deadlines for responding to its inquiries.

In its annual report, it said that it had called on the heads of the agencies to account for their performance.

‘This is a very serious issue, as it prevents the committee from effectively performing its statutory oversight role,’ it said.

‘If the ISC’s oversight is being frustrated, then the ISC cannot provide any assurance to the public or Parliament that the intelligence agencies are acting appropriately, and therefore that they merit the licence to operate that Parliament has given them through their statutory powers.

‘Despite numerous complaints, the situation has not improved and, if anything, has got worse.’

In a press release to accompany the publication of the report, the committee said that since its completion they had been reassured that the agency heads recognised the need to address the situation.

However, the committee also expressed concern that it had not been given oversight of a number of new intelligence organisations within government, despite past assurances by ministers that its remit would be extended to cover any new bodies.

They include the intelligence policy department in the Foreign Office, the transport security, resilience and response group in the department for Transport, the joint biosecurity unit in the Department for Health and Social Care, the investment security unit in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the telecoms security and resilience team, the office of communications and the counter disinformation unit in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The committee chairman, Julian Lewis, said they were ‘deeply disappointed and concerned’ at the Government’s failure to update their remit.

‘The only avenue for effective parliamentary oversight of security and intelligence matters is the ISC,’ he said.

‘Each piece of new legislation devolving such matters away from the bodies already overseen by this committee should therefore come with a commensurate expansion to this committee’s remit.

‘Otherwise the effective scrutiny by Parliament of national security issues across Government is being actively avoided. This is genuinely troubling.’

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