How Not to Carry Around Secret Documents
Here’s a tip: when walking around in public with secret government documents, put them in an envelope.
A huge MI5 and police counterterrorist operation against al-Qaeda suspects had to be brought forward at short notice last night after Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism chief accidentally revealed a briefing document.
The operation was nearly blown when Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick walked up Downing Street holding a document marked “secret” with highly sensitive operational details visible to photographers.
The document, carried under his arm, revealed how many terrorist suspects were to be arrested, in which cities across the North West. It revealed that armed members of the Greater Manchester Police would force entry into a number of homes. The operation’s secret code headed the list of action that was to take place.
Now the debate begins about whether he was just stupid, or very very stupid:
Opposition MPs criticised Mr Quick, with the Liberal Democrats describing him as “accident prone” and the Conservatives condemning his “very alarming” lapse of judgement.
But former Labour Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said it would be wrong for such an experienced officer to resign “for holding a piece of paper the wrong way”.
It wasn’t just a piece of paper. It was a secret piece of paper. (Here’s the best blow-up of the picture. And surely these people have procedures for transporting classified material. That’s what the mistake was: not following proper procedure.