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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 01:20 GMT
Profile: John Scarlett
John Scarlett
John Scarlett has been chief of MI6 since 2004
The head of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, has another honour to add to his name.

John Scarlett has been made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in the New Year list - an honour given to members of the diplomatic service.

He was previously appointed a companion of the same order (CMG) and an OBE.

He took up his post as MI6 chief in 2004, and is the only serving member named in public - but he has a wider public profile because of his previous role on the Joint Intelligence Committee.

In accordance with long-held convention, as head of MI6 Mr Scarlett does not make public appearances, or give interviews.

However, his picture is widely available and his biography, those bits we are allowed to know about, is well documented.

He was first exposed to the glare of publicity during the 2004 Hutton inquiry into the death of weapons scientist Dr David Kelly.

Pictures of him arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice to give evidence on his role in overseeing the government's dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction were flashed around the world.

His appointment prompted criticism from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Mate?

That was partly because of Mr Scarlett's defence of the government's Iraq weapons dossier during Lord Hutton's inquiry, and was not helped by the fact that Tony Blair's former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, apparently refers to Mr Scarlett as "mate".

In fact, many believed his chances of becoming the head of MI6 had effectively come to an end when his evidence at Hutton played such a key part in the government's defence of how it portrayed intelligence information when it made the case for war with Iraq.

Then, Mr Scarlett was chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, a body which includes all the chiefs of all the intelligence agencies, and was responsible for the September dossier.

Its main job, under normal circumstances, is to provide the prime minister with a weekly briefing on the security threats facing the UK and to advise the cabinet secretary on the funding needs of the intelligence agencies.

During the course of the Hutton inquiry, Mr Scarlett was criticised for agreeing to make key last minute changes in the dossier because Number 10 chief of staff Jonathan Powell feared it would play into the hands of anti-war groups.

Concerns were also raised that the JIC ignored warnings that the Iraq weapons claims were "over-egged".

Russian speaker

Prior to his exposure to the unfamiliar glare of the media which surrounded the Hutton Inquiry, Mr Scarlett spent 30 years working for the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6, and ended up as one of its five directors.

A fluent Russian speaker, he joined MI6 in 1970 and during his early career served in Nairobi, Moscow, and Paris.

He went on to be in charge of Britain's station in Moscow.

On retiring in September 2001, he was appointed chairman of the JIC, being in the job just a week when al-Qaeda mounted its 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

He is married with three daughters and a son. He was educated at Epsom College and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he obtained a first-class degree in history.

He lists his interests in Who's Who as history, medieval churches and family.




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