Afghanistan: details of more than 250 interpreters shared in Ministry of Defence data breach - probe launched

Some of those whose information has been released are in hiding from the Taliban

A former defence minister has claimed that interpreters in Afghanistan will be “moving house again tonight” after there was a data breach involving the email addresses of dozens of people who worked with British forces.

An investigation has been launched into the breach by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), who said that they had contacted those impacted.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • According to reports, some of those whose information has been released are in hiding from the Taliban after the militants took control of the battle-torn country last month.
  • Officials said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the specifics of the case but, according to the BBC, the breach refers to an email.
  • The broadcaster reported that more than 250 people seeking relocation to the UK – many of whom are in hiding – were mistakenly copied into an email from the MoD asking for an update on their situation.
  • Some of the email addresses had photos attached, the report suggested.
  • The investigation into the breach was personally ordered by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, a source told the Press Association. The MoD said it would take all necessary steps under UK GDPR rules.

What’s been said

“The truth on how we have treated our Afghan interpreters will come out.

“All the back slapping over Operation Pitting masks a criminally negligent performance by the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office on doing our duty to these people.

“I reiterate, the vast majority have been left behind, probably moving house again tonight.”

Speaking to the PA news agency, he added the treatment of Afghan interpreters had been “deeply shameful”.

Johnny Mercer, Conservative MP and former defence minister

“An investigation has been launched into a data breach of information from the Afghan Relocations Assistance Policy team.

“We apologise to everyone impacted by this breach and are working hard to ensure it does not happen again.

“The Ministry of Defence takes its information and data handling responsibilities very seriously.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence

Background

Operation Pitting – where more than 1,000 troops, diplomats, and officials were dispatched to Afghanistan to rescue UK nationals and Afghan allies after the seizure of the country’s capital by the Taliban – airlifted more than 15,000 people to safety across just over a fortnight.

In New York, Prime Minister Boris Johnson met the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and said “thanks for all your help with everything on Afghanistan”, referring to the flights leaving Kabul airport and landing in Qatar.

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