Secret terror files left on train

Secret terror files left on train
Secret terror files left on train 

BBC News
11 June 2008

Police are investigating a "serious" security breach after a civil 
servant lost top-secret documents containing the latest intelligence on 

The unnamed Cabinet Office employee apparently breached strict security 
rules when he left the papers on the seat of a train.

A fellow passenger spotted the envelope containing the files and gave it 
to the BBC, who handed them to the police.

The official was later suspended from his job, the Cabinet Office 

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith now faces demands for an official inquiry.

Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the powerful Home Affairs select committee 
told the BBC: "Such confidential documents should be locked away...they 
should not be read on trains.

"I will be writing to the Home Secretary to establish an inquiry into 
the affair."

The Conservatives backed calls for an inquiry, with their security 
spokeswoman, Baroness Neville-Jones, describing the loss as the latest 
in a "long line of serious breaches of security."

Home Office minister Tony McNulty told the BBC he was awaiting the 
results of the police investigation.

'Damning assessment'

The two reports were assessments made by the government's Joint 
Intelligence Committee.

One, on Iraq's security forces, was commissioned by the Ministry of 
Defence. According to the BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, 
it included a top-secret and in some places "damning" assessment of 
Iraq's security forces,

The other document, reportedly entitled 'Al-Qaeda Vulnerabilities', was 
commissioned jointly by the Foreign Office and the Home Office.

Just seven pages long but classified as "UK Top Secret", this latest 
intelligence assessment on al-Qaeda is so sensitive that every document 
is numbered and marked "for UK/US/Canadian and Australian eyes only", 
according to our correspondent.

According to reports, this document may have contained details of names 
of individuals or locations which might have been useful to Britain's 

However, it appears that in a serious breach of the rules, the papers 
were taken out of Whitehall by an unnamed official and left in an orange 
cardboard envelope on the seat of a Surrey-bound train from London 
Waterloo on Tuesday.

When a fellow passenger saw the material inside the envelope, they gave 
it to the BBC.

Not suspended

Reports suggest that the official, described as a senior male civil 
servant, works in the Cabinet Office's intelligence and security unit, 
which contributes to the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

His work reportedly involves writing and contributing to intelligence 
and security assessments, and that he has the authority to take secret 
documents out of the Cabinet Office - so long as strict procedures are 

Once the documents were reported missing, a full-scale search had been 
launched by the Metropolitan Police, amid fears that such highly 
sensitive material could have fallen into the wrong hands.

Our correspondent said that across several departments in Whitehall on 
Wednesday evening there is said to be "horror" that top-secret documents 
could have been so casually mislaid.


Any inquiry is likely to focus on the Cabinet Office, and the security 
procedures that made it possible for sensitive information to be allowed 
out of a secure environment.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: "Two documents which are marked 
as 'secret' were left on a train and have subsequently been handed to 
the BBC.

"There has been a security breach, the Metropolitan Police are carrying 
out an investigation."

The spokesman declined to discuss the contents of the documents.

One Whitehall source sought to play down the impact of the breach: "The 
embarrassment of the loss is greater than the embarrassment of the 
contents of the documents.

"We don't believe there is a threat to any individuals in what was in 
these documents if they had got into the wrong hands."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "We are making inquiries in 
connection with the loss of documents on June 10."

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