Sunday 8 December 2019

BBC's Panorama programme 'loses' confidential information relating to secret British Army Unit in Northern Ireland

A Panorama researcher reportedly lost data related to soldiers from the elite Military Reaction Force
A Panorama researcher reportedly lost data related to soldiers from the elite Military Reaction Force

Ian Burrell

Highly sensitive and confidential information relating to a secret British Army unit which is alleged to have shot unarmed civilians in Northern Ireland has been “lost” by the BBC's investigative team on the Panorama programme.

The material, which includes information on former soldiers from the controversial Military Reaction Force, leaked out following a lapse in security.

It is understood that at least one former serviceman from the elite unit has had his identity compromised.

The notoriously secretive MRF included men from the Special Air Service, the Special Boat Service, the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment.

Names and details of other senior military figures - in addition to those who served with the MRF - were also contained in the compromised file.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is investigating the major loss of data by the Panorama team after an inexperienced researcher allegedly downloaded a cache of material from an online dropbox service on to a USB stick and handed it to a third party.

It is understood that the matter is being treated as a potential criminal offence under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act.

Initially, the data was believed to relate only to Panorama's investigation into alleged questionable practices at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The researcher leaked the file to the office of the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, because she did not believe the documentary, broadcast in April, was balanced.

The material included details of people who had contributed to the documentary

However, the dossier contained not just the names of Panorama's anonymous sources on the Tower Hamlets investigation but also the identities of confidential sources on a previous programme about secret British Army operations in Northern Ireland.

The young researcher's actions are the subject of an investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office into a possible breach of the Data Protection Act. She claims she was acting on her conscience and in the public interest.

Independent News Service

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