24 November 2002

The Foreign Office memos: http://cryptome.org/fco-intel.htm

The Sunday Times - Britain

November 24, 2002

British secrets put out on web

Nick Fielding

A WEBSITE in America has published three secret Foreign Office memos which name senior intelligence officials and list their job titles and telephone numbers.

One was for Sir David Manning, the prime minister’s most senior foreign policy adviser and the next ambassador to the United States.

Last night an inquiry was under way in Whitehall to determine how the memos, marked confidential or restricted, appeared on the site. An insider said: “This is a serious breach of security. We want to know precisely how it leaked.”

Security officials will be no less embarrassed by the content of the memos, one of which refers to the failures of an internal threat assessment system which did not warn of a terrorist threat to the British embassy in Brussels.

The website, which the government has asked The Sunday Times not to name, gives no clue as to how it obtained the documents. It simply says: “Thanks to A, who writes: ‘Some stuff that might prove interesting . . . ’ ”

The first memo, dated January 15, 2000, and marked Confidential — UK Eyes Only, contains the minutes of Whitehall’s private military companies group, and discusses government policy towards mercenary organisations.

It lists 15 civil servants at a meeting, including members of the security service (MI5), the anti-terrorist operations branch of the Metropolitan police special branch, GCHQ, Customs and Excise and the Foreign Office. The document details all the participants’ job titles and telephone and fax numbers.

The second memo, dated September 2000 and sent by the head of Whitehall’s counter-terrorism policy department to Manning, refers to the difficulties the Foreign Office was having with Fortress, a new computerised system for distributing intelligence around Whitehall.

It also reveals that these problems meant delays in terror warnings to missions overseas, such as notice of a threatened attack on the British embassy in Brussels.

A third note complains that Fortress “is a pig” and the writer did not receive material he ought to have seen.