Today's guilty plea by Richard Jackson, to a single offence under the Official Secrets Act 1989 section 8 Safeguarding of information
The BBC reports Official fined over missing files
A senior civil servant has been fined after pleading guilty to leaving top secret documents on a train.
Richard Jackson admitted negligence by losing the files on a service from London Waterloo to Surrey on 10 June.
City of Westminster Magistrates Court heard the documents "had the potential to damage national security and UK international relations".
Cabinet Office official Jackson, 37, of Yateley, Hampshire, was fined £2,500 and will have to pay £250 costs.
See also the report in The Guardian Civil servant fined £2,500 for leaving secret al-Qaida files on train
A member of the public found them inside an orange cardboard envelope on a train from Waterloo station to Surrey and passed them on to the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner.
Would this scandal have been covered up if the member of the public had simply not returned the documents, or had not used the BBC to do so ?
One of the documents was a seven-page report by the joint intelligence committee entitled Al-Qaida Vulnerabilities.
Classified as top-secret, the intelligence assessment on al-Qaida was so sensitive that every document was numbered and marked "for UK/US/Canadian and Australian eyes only". It is understood the assessment also contained reports on the state of the Islamist terror network in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan.
The document reportedly contained names of individuals or locations that might have been useful to Britain's enemies.
The second document, commissioned from the committee by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), contained an analysis of Iraq's security forces. It included a top-secret and in some places "damning" assessment of Iraq's security forces.
Jackson was on secondment to the Cabinet Office from the MoD at the time the documents were lost.
The court heard that the intelligence files "had the potential to damage national security and UK international relations".
This is an extraordinarily lenient "punishment" for potentially tipping off terrorists and foreign intelligence agencies to the UK intelligence communities highest level strategic intelligence assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of our enemies.
What assurance is there that the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Joint Intelligence Committee, and their Assessments Staff, have made it physically and culturally impossible for such highly classified documents to actually be printed out and taken physically out of a secure reading room in Whitehall ?
Why are there no airport style, pat down searches, "see through your clothes" body scanners and physical searches of bags and briefcases, on every one of the small number of people who are handling such top secret documents, without exception, to physically prevent them from ever taking such unencrypted documents home, either deliberately or by accident ?
Unless and until, the Labour Government and the Whitehall bureaucracy, at the senior level at which Richard Jackson worked at, can demonstrate a real change in attitude and culture to our data security and privacy concerns, they simply cannot be trusted with national scale databases of our personal data.
This case contrasts sharply with the Official Secrets Act trial of Corporal Daniel James, a foreign born interpreter who worked for General David Richards in Afghanistan, who has now been promoted to be head of the British Army.
Despite the much more severe risk to UK anti-terrorism and national security, which Richard Jackson's negligence or arrogance put at risk, he has not been vilified in the mainstream media or by the prosecution, in court, like the Iranian born Corporal Daniel James has.
It is worth reading the blog articles by Michael James Smith, who has an insider's perspective of machinations in such Official Secrets Act cases, having served time in prison after having been convicted of passing technical defence contractor documents to the KGB in 1993, which he is trying to have overturned. He has actually visited and interviewed Daniel James in Wandsworth prison (what are the chances that this prison visit was electronically snooped on ? )
See Daniel James - the sacrificial lamb
The prosecution case against Corporal Daniel James appears to rest on 7 unencrypted emails between Daniel James and the Iranian military attache in Kabul, Afghanistan, which must have been intercepted whilst he was back in the United Kingdom, awaiting a return to duty.
Presumably these are therefore US government intercepts of UK email communications, being used in a British civilian court case, something which is forbidden by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 section 17 Exclusion of matterd from legal proceedings,
This has implications for the ongoing Chilcot Review of Intercept Evidence - see the Spy Blog article Privy Council Chilcot Review report on Intercept Evidence - more ***
It also has implications for Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's totalitarian Communications Data Bill and her attempts to piggyback a secret centralised communications data traffic database onto the GCHQ Intercept Modernisation Programme.
Meanwhile, there does not appear to be any prosecution over the incident which emerged a few days after the Richard Jackson stupidity, also involving HM Treasury and sensitive terrorist financing and money laundering documents, also left on a train:
See the previous Spy Blog article: Terrorist financing and money laundering Treasury documents left on a train - time for Whitehall mandarins and Ministerial heads to roll
Is this because a favoured political apparatchik was the culprit ?