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British Intelligence Officer Suspended Over Security Breach


A senior intelligence official has been suspended following discovery that confidential documents related to Iraq and the activities of al-Qaida were left on a passenger train. The documents were were later handed over to the British Broadcasting Corporation. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from London.

The identity of the Cabinet Office official has not been made public. On Wednesday, the BBC announced that it was in possession of the documents that were compiled by the government's Joint Intelligence Committee.

BBC Security correspondent Frank Gardner said one of the documents, commissioned by the Ministry of Defense concerned Iraq's security forces. He added that it included a top-secret and in some places "damning" assessment of Iraqi forces.

Another document, commissioned by the Foreign Office and the Home Office is reportedly entitled 'Al-Qaida Vulnerabilities'. Gardner said the seven-page document, classified as "U.K. Top Secret", is marked "for U.K./U.S./Canadian and Australian eyes only".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced an investigation is underway.

"This is a very serious incident and we take it seriously we will have to trace where these documents have gone if they have gone anywhere other than in an envelope to a local BBC station," he said.

The issue also came up in parliament, where Cabinet Office Minister Ed Miliband, was sharply questioned over the incident. He said the official who left the documents on the train clearly violated the rules by removing them from the government offices.

"Let us be absolutely clear about this. In this case there was no authorization for this document to be taken out of the building, the rules are absolutely clear; authorization should be sort and if the document is taken out of the building it should only be in the most exceptional circumstances and in those circumstances with the securest of brief cases and security attached to it," he said.

The loss of the documents is the latest in a list of embarrassing breaches by the government. Last year, details of three million candidates for the British driving test were lost and the Revenue and Customs Office lost two computer discs containing the personal details of 25 million people.

The latest security breach was revealed the same day the government scored a narrow parliamentary victory to tighten anti-terror laws. The controversial bill calls for increasing the number of days terror suspects can be held without charge from 28 to 42. The measure has been strongly criticized by opposition parties and even some government party members as an unnecessary infringement on personal freedoms.

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