The British Cabinet office has suspended a "very senior intelligence official" who left secret files on al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and the Iraqi security situation behind him on a train in London.
The highly classifieds government docs were found inside a bright orange manila folder which was left on the tube betwixt Waterloo Station in London and Surrey on Tuesday. Each page was numbered and marked "For UK, US, Canadian and Australian eyes only".
A curious fellow picked the folder up, realised what was inside and passed the contents to the BBC, which last night handed the documents to police. Right. BBC and then the cops. Got it.
The highly sensitive documents were assessments made by the government's Joint Intelligence Committee. Data provided by the committee can be used to help form future policy and would have been extremely useful to any terrorist group. Not only did the documents set out the latest government assessment on al-Qaeda, also included was a "top secret and in some cases damning" assessment of Iraq's security forces.
Naturally many people are calling for the senior intelligence officials head saying "whomever lost these documents must be prosecuted and punished."
A spokesman for the British Cabinet Office said:
It is understood a full-scale police search was launched when it was realised that they were missing, as officials were concerned at the possibility of such sensitive papers finding their way into the wrong hands.
"There has been a security breach. The Metropolitan Police are carrying out an investigation."
It is the latest in a series of embarrassing losses of government information, including the disappearance of details of millions of child benefit recipients on a CD sent through the post.
There was reported to be "horror" across several departments in Whitehall this week that top-secret documents could have been so casually mislaid.
Shadow security minister, Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, said: “This is just the latest in a long line of serious breaches of security involving either the loss of data, documents or Government lap tops, further highlighting the most basic failures in this Government’s ability to maintain our security.
“The Government must make an immediate statement to Parliament and an inquiry must be launched.”
Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary, Chris Huhne added: “This is an appalling breach of security, which suggests that procedures on such sensitive matters are lax to the point of utter carelessness.
“There should be clear guidelines about when such secret documents are outside carefully monitored premises.
“It beggars belief that the Government could have scored such a devastating own goal the very day that it was pushing the draconian counter terrorism laws thought parliament.”