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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Profile: Jonathan Evans
PROFILE
By Dennis Sewell

Jonathan Evans
Opennness has characterised Evans' opening weeks
The director-general of MI5, who had little time to get settled into his new job, is the first person to be profiled in a new weekly feature focusing on someone making headlines.

Jonathan Evans had been in his new job for only nine days when the media storm hit.

But you can't say he wasn't well prepared. No sooner were the verdicts in at the Old Bailey on Monday, when five men were convicted of terrorist offences in the "fertiliser bomb plot", then the MI5 had mounted a defence on its website.

There was a personal statement from Evans, its new director general, a background briefing why and how two of the 7/7 bombers had slipped through MI5's net and in true rapid-rebuttal style, a handy cut-out-and-keep table entitled Rumours and reality, the facts behind the myths.

Had the keystone spooks bungled, the tabloids asked. They had photographs of Khan and Tanweer. They'd bugged their conversations. They'd followed them home. But never identified them. Or flagged them up as a threat.

I'm sure that Jonathan Evans will defend the interests of his service and will stand up for it
Sir Paul Lever

Could 7/7 have been avoided, the survivors and the bereaved wanted to know. Could we have a public enquiry, David Cameron asked Tony Blair.

The Security Service didn't hide behind its wall of discretion this week. It went straight out and put its side of the story.

This combination of openness and defensiveness was, all the media's "spookwatchers" agreed, unprecedented, and possibly marked a new era.

"I'm sure that Jonathan Evans will defend the interests of his service and will stand up for it," says Sir Paul Lever, who once chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee.

"But I think also that he's someone who understands that the environment where his service has to operate is a very, very sensitive one, and that they'll need to be more open about their activities than they ever have been in the past.

"Not open about operational details, obviously, but more open about the sort of things they do, why they do them, what is their assessment of the nature of the threat that they face."

Glamour

Mr Evans, aged about 50, studied classics at Bristol University in the late 70s and joined the Security Service in 1980.

Thereafter he has experienced both the glamour and the more bureaucratic sides of the business.

David Blunkett
Here was a man who was clearly a quiet professional
David Blunkett

On the one hand he's tracked Eastern Bloc agents in the Cold War, intrigued against the Provisional IRA Northern Ireland in the late 80s and the 90s, and investigated al-Qaeda investigations. Ten days before 9/11 he was appointed MI5's director of international counter-terrorism.

And on the other hand he's advised government departments on document security, done a stretch in the Security Service's secretariat, worked on attachment to the Home Office planning VIP security policy, while picking up a management diploma from the Institute of Directors on the way.

So which is he - derring-do dynamic leader or management suit?

Former home secretary David Blunkett is in no doubt that Mr Evans is a leader to his fingertips.

"Here was a man who was clearly a quiet professional, someone who doesn't parade himself, who doesn't push his own personality upfront, but actually has been dedicated, committed to the service and the wider security issues for as long as I can remember."

Focus switch

Mr Evans has taken over at a time of rapid institutional transformation for MI5.

By the end of next year the service will be twice the size it was in 2001. Its focus has switched to the fight against Islamist terrorism and recruited staff with languages and expertise to match this threat.

BBC's Spooks
Spying has undergone a TV makeover
It has started operating in the regions as part of multi-agency teams alongside the police and close to the Muslim communities in which its targets operate.

His first fortnight has gone pretty well. There's been an endorsement for MI5 from Tony Blair and a hint that more resources are on their way from Gordon Brown.

And among the media, the tone has lightened from the ridicule evident at the beginning of the week. MI5's argument that keeping tabs on 2,000 possible terrorists and 200 plots at any time makes prioritising necessary has stilled some of the shriller critics.

There are still questions about how Khan and Tanweer were not identified as threats, given the evidence, but some of those questions could be directed at the police.

And while the current security threat remains "severe", who runs MI5 and how smart they are really matters.

Profile is broadcast on Radio 4 on Saturdays at 1900 BST and on Sundays at 1740.


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