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21 Sep, 2021 11:49

‘Cavalier incompetence’: UK MoD launches probe after data leak exposes names & emails of over 250 Afghans who aided British forces

‘Cavalier incompetence’: UK MoD launches probe after data leak exposes names & emails of over 250 Afghans who aided British forces

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has ordered an inquiry after a data breach “needlessly put lives at risk” by revealing the email addresses, and even pictures, of Afghan interpreters who worked with UK forces in the country.

More than 250 people – many of whom are in hiding – hoping to relocate to the UK were copied in an email from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), according to a BBC report on Monday that said the email addresses, names and a number of attached profile pictures were visible to all recipients.

The email was addressed to interpreters who were left behind in Afghanistan and those who were able to escape to neighbouring countries following the Taliban’s swift takeover last month. It was reportedly sent by the team in charge of the UK’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme.

Although the scheme offers refuge to interpreters and their families, former Foreign Minister Dominic Raab had admitted that the British government does not know how many people eligible for assistance remain in Afghanistan. The last British plane evacuating people out of Kabul left at the end of August.

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The ARAP team, which has apparently been in contact with the interpreters since last month, told them it was doing everything it could to help them and added that they should not put themselves or their families at risk if it was not safe to leave their current location.

However, one interpreter realised that the email had left visible the details of more than 250 Afghans it was copied to. This person told the BBC that the “mistake could cost the life of interpreters, especially for those who are still in Afghanistan.”

Some of the interpreters didn’t notice the mistake and they replied to all the emails already and they explained their situation which is very dangerous. The email contains their profile pictures and contact details

After it was alerted to its mistake, the MoD then sent another email 30 minutes later – titled ‘Urgent – Arap case contact’ – that asked recipients to delete the previous email and recommended changing their email addresses since these “may have been compromised.”

After Wallace termed the error an “unacceptable breach,” an MoD spokesperson confirmed that an investigation had been launched and issued an apology – adding that the ministry “takes its information and data handling responsibilities very seriously.”

Several British social media users, including a number of retired armed forces members, criticised the MoD for its “cavalier incompetence” with some commenters branding it as “criminally negligent.” Others shared stories of the difficult conditions faced by interpreters who are still in hiding.

Conservative MP and former defence minister Johnny Mercer tweeted that the breach would force the “vast majority” of those left behind into “probably moving house again tonight.” Meanwhile, Labour MP and shadow defence secretary John Healey said it “needlessly put lives at risk.”

Last month, RT spoke to ‘Said’, a former translator at the UK’s Kabul embassy who said the British government had abandoned Afghans who worked for them. After being unable to reach the airport prior to the withdrawal deadline, he described feeling “cursed” and “abandoned” after going on the run with his family, fearing reprisals from the Taliban.

“We had a lot of faith in the UK government because it’s a powerful government. We never thought that we would be in this situation one day. I don’t know why they did it to us, why they did this to us, why they left us without protection, without any plan,” he said.

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