Agent Names Lost

So the good times keep on rolling for the spook com­munity in the UK.  An officer of the Ser­i­ous Organ­ised Crime Agency (SOCA) appar­ently lost top secret inform­a­tion such as the names of under­cov­er agents while trav­el­ling in Ecuador.

LanderSOCA is a rel­at­ively new agency set up in 2004 to police organ­ised crime, par­tic­u­larly that revolving around the illeg­al drug trade.  The agency has the mis­for­tune to have as Chair­man Steph­en Lander, erstwhile boss of MI5; a man whose man­age­ment style was known as “Stalinesque”. 

Even before this latest blun­der, con­cerns had been raised by SOCA staff about inef­fect­ive and top-heavy man­age­ment (shades of MI5 in the 1990s)and recent ques­tions have been asked about wheth­er the agency was pro­du­cing mean­ing­ful res­ults, as the price of illi­cit drugs has plummeted on UK streets, indic­at­ing a glut of recent imports. 

This latest blun­der will hardly have reas­sured min­is­ters.  Reportedly, the hap­less SOCA officer lost a USB stick con­tain­ing the names of under­cov­er agents involved in the drug war in Ecuador, as well as inform­a­tion relat­ing to 5 years’ worth of invest­ig­a­tions.   The blun­der has reportedly jeop­ard­ised oper­a­tions that have cost in the region of £100 mil­lion.

Agent iden­tit­ies are, rightly, the most pro­tec­ted of secret inform­a­tion.  This is an unfor­giv­able gaff, and yet the officer is appar­ently only facing “dis­cip­lin­ary charges”. 

So, if you are a whis­tleblower expos­ing hein­ous spy crimes, you are put on tri­al and sent to pris­on, even if the tri­al judge acknow­ledges that no lives were ever put at risk through your dis­clos­ures.  How­ever, if you care­lessly leave top secret agent inform­a­tion lying around in hos­tile ter­rit­ory, you don’t even get the sack, let alone face pro­sec­u­tion under the Offi­cial Secrets Act.

I would sug­gest that the next intel­li­gence whis­tleblower to emerge from the shad­ows should simply claim to have dropped a USB stick out­side the offices of a nation­al news­pa­per.  A rap over the knuckles will then be the worst that they face! 

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