United Kingdom

MoD employee suspended after Afghan interpreters’ details were leaked

The Ministry of Defence has has suspended an employee after a data breach of Afghan interpreters' information.

The news came as Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, revealed that eight members of the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme have not been found since the leak. 

In an apology before the Commons, Mr Wallace told MPs he "immediately directed investigations" after an email to more than 250 people eligible for Arap was copied to all applicants rather than blind copying them. 

Responding to an urgent question, he said: "So far one individual has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, and processes for data handling and correspondence processing have already been changed."

Mr Wallace also said that, of the 260 leaked email addresses, "there were eight that we have not had comms with since the end of Operation Pitting". 

He said officials had continued try. The data breach happened at around 5.30pm on Monday "and we have engaged with as many of them as possible".

Mr Wallace said he had "directed extensive steps" to quantify the "potential increased risk to individuals in order to take further steps to protect them", adding that Admiral Sir Ben Key, the commander of joint operations who led the planning and evacuation from Kabul, was leading the investigation into the breach.

He said: "I apologise to those Afghans affected by this data breach and [with the Home Office] we are now working with them to provide security advice.

"As I speak, the minister for the Armed Forces [James Heappey] is in the region speaking to neighbouring countries to see what more we can do with both third countries and in-country applicants.

"It is an unacceptable level of service that has let down the thousands of members of the Armed Forces and veterans. On behalf of the Ministry of Defence, I apologise."

Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the defence select committee, told the Commons: "The Taliban haven't changed – they seek to exact revenge on anybody that worked for Nato. We must get these interpreters out or they'll be hunted and killed.

"If the usual methods via the Arap scheme are not available, could I invite the Secretary of State to take advantage of the chaos in the country to find clandestine means of leading these people to safety."

Mr Wallace replied: "[He] will know I can't obviously talk about the broader means, but all means will be explored."

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