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