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Reflections on a Career as an Intelligence Officer

19 February 2013

Eliza Manningham-Buller

Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller

The Vice-Chancellor and the School of Social Sciences were delighted to welcome Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller to the University recently to talk about her career as an intelligence officer.

An Honorary Fellow of the University, Baroness Manningham-Buller headed the Security Service (MI5) from 2002 to 2007, leading the organisation through substantial change in the wake of 9/11 and the growing threat from Al-Qaeda. Under her leadership MI5 doubled in size, opened eight new offices in the UK and increased its intelligence capacity significantly.

At this prestigious event, Baroness Manningham-Buller regaled the audience with what she had learnt in her 33-year career within the Security Service. She also highlighted some of the most significant changes MI5 has undergone in its history and in response to a changing world.  

One of these changes was the creation of the Secret Services Act in 1989 which provided a statutory basis for the work carried out by MI5. When Eliza joined the organisation in 1974, there was no legislation governing it and no formal recruitment process.

Eliza Manningham-Buller

(l-r) Professor Malcolm Williams, Baroness Manningham-Buller and Professor Colin Riordan

While taking questions, when asked what she missed most about being part of the organisation, Eliza said it was working with bright, young individuals who were full of motivation and energy for making a difference - not motivated by money but by what they were working for.  

Eliza concluded with telling the audience that she felt lucky and privileged to be the leader of the MI5, working with talented people towards a common purpose.

Since retirement Eliza has become a Governor of the Wellcome Trust, a Council member of Imperial College and a member of the House of Lords, where she sits as a cross-bench peer.