Military Wiki
The Right Honourable
The Baroness
Born Elizabeth Lydia Manningham-Buller
14 July 1948(1948-07-14) (age 74)
Northampton, England, UK
Nationality British
Alma mater Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
Occupation Intelligence officer
Religion Anglican
Spouse(s) Married
Children 5 stepchildren
Parents The Rt Hon. The Viscount Dilhorne
Mary Manningham-Buller, Viscountess Dilhorne

Elizabeth Lydia "Eliza" Manningham-Buller, Baroness Manningham-Buller, DCB (born 14 July 1948) was Director General of MI5, the British internal Security Service (MI5), from October 2002 until her retirement on 20 April 2007, aged 58. She became a crossbench life peer on 18 April 2008.[1] Her title was gazetted as Baroness Manningham-Buller, of Northampton in the County of Northamptonshire on 2 June 2008.[2]

Professional life

Eliza Manningham-Buller worked as a teacher for three years at Queen's Gate School, Kensington, London from 1971–74, having read English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, before joining the Security Service. She was recruited to the Security Service at a drinks party when someone suggested that she see someone at the Ministry of Defence.[3] Specializing in counter-terrorism rather than MI5's then-classical counter-espionage, she was active at the time of the Lockerbie bombing by Libya in 1988. She worked for K-branch against the IRA. During the early 1980s she was reportedly one of only five people aware that Oleg Gordievsky, the deputy head of the KGB at the Soviet embassy in London, was actually a double agent.[4]

She was a senior liaison working out of Washington, D.C. to the US intelligence community over the period of the first Gulf War, before leading the newly created Irish counter-terrorism section from 1992 when MI5 were given the lead responsibility for such work (from the Metropolitan Police). Having been promoted to the Management Board of the Security Service the next year, Manningham-Buller became the director in charge of surveillance and technical operations. She was appointed Deputy Director General in 1997, and succeeded Sir Stephen Lander as Director General in 2002, the second woman to take on the role after Dame Stella Rimington. As Director General, she was paid £150,000 a year. She has been credited with making the agency more open: she established a website and recruited agents through newspaper advertisements. Under her direction, terror risk assessments were made public for the first time.[5]

Manningham-Buller was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath (DCB) in 2005. She retired from MI5 on 21 April 2007, and was succeeded by her deputy, Jonathan Evans.[6] That month marked the end of her 33rd year in the Security Service.[5] She reportedly joined the public speaking circuit.[7] She was appointed to the Court and Council of Imperial College London in 2009, becoming Deputy Chairman later that year, and named Chairman in July 2011.[8]

Personal life

Manningham-Buller was the second daughter in a family of four, of Viscount Dilhorne. She was educated at Northampton High School and Benenden School.[3]

She is married to David, whose surname has never been disclosed publicly; he has five children by his previous marriage, who are Lady Manningham-Buller's stepchildren. "Her husband, David, is the son of a former Lieutenant Colonel and a former lecturer in moral philosophy at St Andrews University. He has recently retrained as a carpenter. An Irish Catholic by birth, he is said to have once held strong left-wing views. Lady Manningham-Buller reported that he knew about her profession before their marriage and when they knew each other well."[3]


Manningham-Buller's father, Lord Dilhorne, (1905–1980) was a Conservative MP from 1943 to 1962. He was Britain's second highest legal officer, the Solicitor General, he also later held the office of Lord Chancellor for two years, thereafter; he was created an hereditary peer with a viscountcy. Her mother, Mary Manningham-Buller (Viscountess Dilhorne), trained carrier pigeons that were used to fly coded messages in World War II.[9] The pigeons were dropped in wicker baskets with little parachutes over France and Germany and they were used to fly back to her mother's pigeon loft carrying intelligence.[3] One of the pigeons won the Dickin Medal, and one brought back intelligence of the V-2 rocket project in Peenemünde, Germany.[3] Mary, Viscountess Dilhorne, died in Oxfordshire on 25 March 2004, aged 93.[9]

Public statements

Backing the War on Terror

Manningham-Buller has made speeches to invited audiences containing members of the press, as well as making court statements. On 17 June 2003, at a conference at the Royal United Services Institute she gave her complete backing for the War on Terror and said that renegade scientists had given terror groups information needed to create chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. She also warned that the threat from international terrorism would be "with us for a good long time", which was why new legislation had been introduced.[10]

Speech on the 7 July 2005 London bombings

On 10 September 2005, she spoke to an audience in the Netherlands about the 7 July 2005 London bombings and her disappointment that MI5 failed to stop attacks, even when in possession of intelligence, because of bureaucratic inertia. She added that "[the] world has changed and there needs to be a debate on whether some erosion of [the] civil liberties we all value may be necessary to improve the chances of our citizens not being blown apart as they go about their daily lives."[11][12]

Stance on gaining intelligence through torture

On 21 October 2005, BBC News reported Manningham-Buller's leaked court statement to the Law Lords regarding methods for collecting intelligence from overseas. This was part of an investigation by the Law Lords on whether the Her Majesty's Government should have to be made aware whether the intelligence it is using was obtained through torture. "Experience proves that detainee reporting can be accurate and may enable lives to be saved", she stated, also maintaining that obtaining information from foreign intelligence agencies, which initially enters the British intelligence system via MI6, was vital in fighting terrorism. Regarding the ethics of how and where this intelligence is gathered she stated that "agencies will not often know the location or details of detention".[Clarification needed] Her example to support the need for intelligence gathering from overseas was the case of Mohammed Megeurba, an Algerian man who was questioned by agencies in his country. Evidence collected by this questioning led to a raid in London which led to the Wood Green ricin plot being uncovered. Press have speculated that Megeurba was tortured to obtain this information, although Manningham-Buller has maintained neither she nor MI5 were aware of the "precise circumstances that attended their [Algerian agencies'] questioning of Megeurba". She emphasised that, had MI5 requested information regarding how the intelligence had been gathered, its request would have been ignored and the relationship between Britain and Algeria could have been damaged. She concluded by exemplifying the "importance of co-operation between states in countering the threat from international terrorism". Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, commended Manningham-Buller for being "brutally honest" about the activities of intelligence agencies. However, she also stated that Britain should not "legitimise" torture as a means of intelligence gathering by accepting evidence gained in such a manner as evidence in court.[13] Manningham-Buller stated that the British intelligence services do not ask how intelligence is obtained "because that would make things difficult".[14]

Refusal to appear before the Joint Committee on Human Rights

On 23 January 2006, she refused to appear before the Joint Committee On Human Rights in Parliament to speak about "the extent to which the Service is, or could take steps to ensure it is, aware that information it receives from foreign agencies may have been obtained by the use of torture", and "any information which the Service may have about extraordinary renditions using UK airports".[15]

Speech on MI5 after the September 11 attacks

On 9 November 2006, Manningham-Buller gave a speech to the Mile End Group at Queen Mary, University of London as a guest of Professor Peter Hennessy in which she warned that her office was tracking 30 terror plots, and 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1,600 individuals. She also stated that MI5 had expanded by 50% since the September 11 attacks and stood at roughly 2,800 staff. She reiterated her warning that the threat "may—I suggest will—include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology".[16][17]

This speech came three days after Dhiren Barot was sentenced to 40 years for his part in the 2004 Financial buildings plot in which he had a plan to build a radiological dirty bomb that involved setting fire to 10,000 smoke alarms. In September 2011 Eliza Manningham-Buller delivered one of the BBC Radio Reith Lectures and answered questions from an audience that included historian Peter Hennessy and novelist Ian McEwan, see here.

Attack on 42-day terrorism detention

On 8 July 2008, Baroness Manningham-Buller made her maiden speech in the House of Lords since her resignation. She told the House that she was against government plans to extend the time period for retaining terrorist suspects in the UK from 28 to 42 days. She told peers that she disagreed on a "practical basis as well as a principled one". She criticised the plans for terrorism detention as being not "in any way workable" and emphasised the need for all political parties to work together in finding a solution for dealing with terrorism. Furthermore, Lady Manningham-Buller maintained that "complete security" could never be achieved in a country and that civil liberties were at risk of being compromised if the plans were passed by the House of Lords.

The speech, only 501 words long and lasting only four minutes, attracted praise from other Lords, including Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, who described it as "outstanding, thoughtful and valuable", but also significant attention in the media, given the Baroness's expertise in counter-terrorism issues. Martin Kettle, writing in The Guardian on 11 July 2008, described it as "devastatingly succinct" and "the fatal shot" which would ensure that the Government's "plans were holed below the water line".[18] James Kirkup of the Daily Telegraph described it as "a huge blow to Gordon Brown's plans to extend the detention of terrorist suspects to 42 days".[19]

Other peers supported Lady Manningham-Buller's stance against the plans, including former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and former Chairperson of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), Baroness Neville-Jones. Nevertheless, Lord West of Spithead, who was First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy until 2006 and was then a junior Home Office minister spoke for the Government and implied that more stringent security measures were required to deal with the "unprecedented terrorist threat" to the UK.[20]

Lecture on torture in the House of Lords (9 March 2010)

Giving a lecture in the House of Lords, Baroness Manningham-Buller said “the government did lodge protests” to its U.S. counterparts once the extent of torture was known. It is the first time that has been said publicly. Asked if she had known of the use of waterboarding and other techniques of pressure while she was director-general of MI5, from October 2002 until her retirement in April 2007, she said she had done, and had disapproved. "Nothing – not even the saving of lives – justifies torturing people ... the Americans were very keen to conceal from us what they were doing [with ­suspects]".[21] The full speech can be found here.

2010 Iraq inquiry comments

Baroness Manningham-Buller giving evidence to the Iraq inquiry in July 2010 said the decision to go to war meant that "Our involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word, radicalised a whole generation of young people, some of them British citizens who saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam," she said, before immediately correcting herself by adding "not a whole generation, a few among a generation". As a result, she said she was not "surprised" that UK nationals were involved in the 7 July 2005 bombings in central London. She said she believed the intelligence on Iraq's threat was not "substantial enough" to justify the action. A year after the invasion, she said MI5 was "swamped" by leads about terrorist threats to the UK.[22]

Desert Island Discs

Manningham-Buller was a "castaway" on Desert Island Discs broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in November 2007 giving her first interview after her retirement. She talked briefly about her personal life and her former professional life, including her reactions to the 7 July 2005 London bombings and the importance of protecting their agents. She explained that she had decided on her retirement date shortly after she took up the Director General job, choosing to retire with a total of 33 years service in the security services. She chose a book of poems by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, entitled The Rattle Bag.[3]

The BBC Reith Lectures

In June 2011, the BBC announced Eliza Manningham-Buller would present the 2011 Reith Lectures, alongside the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a series entitled Securing Freedom.[23] Eliza Manningham-Buller's lectures broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service in September 2011, marking the ten-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. In her first lecture, titled "Terror", recorded at BBC Broadcasting House in London, she reflected on the lasting significance of September 11, 2001, asking was it a terrorist crime, an act of war, or something different. She also revealed details of her own role in the discussions involving international security agencies in the days following the attacks on New York and Washington DC and examined the impact the US-led invasion of Iraq had on the fight against al-Qaeda.[24]

In her second lecture, titled "Security", recorded at the Leeds City Museum, she stated that the use of torture is "wrong and never justified" and should be "utterly rejected even when it may offer the prospect of saving lives". She said that the use of torture had not made the world a safer place, adding that the use of water-boarding by the United States was a "profound mistake" and as a result America lost its "moral authority".[25]

In her third and final lecture, titled "Freedom", recorded at the British Library in London, she discussed foreign policy priorities since the September 11 attacks. She stated that it was "necessary" to talk to dictators and terrorists, to protect security and said that the British government's decision to engage with Colonel Gaddafi in 2003 was "the right decision". She went on to say that protecting British citizens would be impossible if the security services were restricted to talking only to those with shared values and cited examples where people once deemed terrorists were now part of the political establishment: "Look at Northern Ireland, where former terrorists are in government... look at Mandela and the ANC which used terror tactics when it was in exile."[26] During the recording of the final lecture she also revealed that she had suffered an anxiety dream, in which she imagined that she was to be arrested for breaking the Official Secrets Act after having given the lectures.[27]

  • The BBC Reith Lectures 2011: Securing Freedom
  • The BBC Reith Lectures 2011: Eliza Manningham-Buller podcast
  • The BBC Reith Lectures 2011: Eliza Manningham-Buller transcripts

Styles and honours

  • Miss Elizabeth Manningham-Buller (1948–1962)
  • The Hon. Eliza Manningham-Buller (1962–2005)
  • The Hon. Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller DCB (2005–2008)
  • The Rt. Hon. The Baroness Manningham-Buller DCB (2008–present)

See also

  • List of terrorist incidents in the United Kingdom
  • MI6, the United Kingdom's foreign intelligence agency
  • MI numbers


  1. House of Lords Appointments Commission – New Non-Party-Political Peers (2008)
  2. "No. 58719". 5 June 2008. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Desert Island Discs with Eliza Manningham-Buller". 
  4. "Eliza Manningham-Buller profile". BBC News. 9 November 2006. Retrieved 10 November 2006. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "MI5 chief quits as full story of 7 July is about to emerge". London: Daily Mail. 15 December 2006. Retrieved 15 December 2006. 
  6. "New Director General Announced". MI5. 7 March 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2007. 
  7. The Guardian
  8. "Eliza Manningham-Buller appointed Chairman of Imperial College London". Imperial College London. 18 May 2011. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "'War secrets' pigeon trainer dies". BBC News. 1 April 2006. Retrieved 10 November 2006. 
  10. "Terror attack 'a matter of time'". BBC News. 17 June 2003. Retrieved 10 November 2006. 
  11. "MI5 head warns on civil liberties". BBC News. 10 September 2005. Retrieved 10 November 2006. 
  12. Manningham-Buller, Eliza (1 September 2006). "The international terrorist threat and the dilemmas in countering it". MI5. Retrieved 10 November 2006. 
  13. "MI5's 'torture' evidence revealed". BBC. 21 October 2005. Retrieved 18 October 2006. 
  14. Foreign Affairs Committee (15 February 2006). "Foreign Affairs - First Report". UK Parliament. Retrieved 10 November 2006. 
  15. Joint Committee On Human Rights (24 July 2006). "Joint Committee On Human Rights - Twenty-Fourth Report". Parliament. Retrieved 10 November 2006. 
  16. "MI5 tracking '30 UK terror plots'". BBC. 10 November 2006. 
  17. Manningham-Buller, Eliza (9 September 2006). "The international terrorist threat to the UK". MI5. Retrieved 10 November 2006. 
  18. Kettle, Martin (11 July 2008). "The 42-day plan is dead, but its assassin may surprise you". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2008. 
  19. Kirkup, James (8 July 2008). "Eliza Manningham-Buller, former MI5 chief, savages 42-day detention plan". London: Daily Telegraph.,-former-MI5-chief,-savages-42-day-detention-plan.html. Retrieved 7 November 2008. 
  20. "Ex-MI5 chief attacks 42-day plan". BBC. 8 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  21. "London protested at torture, says ex-MI5 chief". Financial Times. Retrieved 10 March 2010. 
  22. Iraq inquiry: Ex-MI5 boss says war raised terror threat
  23. "Aung San Suu Kyi to present the BBC's Reith Lectures". BBC News. 10 June 2011. 
  25. "Former MI5 head: Torture is 'wrong and never justified'". BBC News. 7 September 2011. 
  26. "Former MI5 head: Talks with Gaddafi was right decision". BBC News. 13 September 2011. 
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Stephen Lander
Director General of MI5
Succeeded by
Jonathan Evans

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Category:People educated at Northampton High School