UK Ministry of Defence apologises – again – after another major email blunder in Afghanistan

This time affecting candidates for potential relocation


A second leak of personal data was reportedly committed by the Ministry of Defence, raising further questions about the ministry's commitment to the safety of people in Afghanistan, some of whom are its own former employees.

The BBC reported overnight that the details of a further 55 Afghans  – claimed to be candidates for potential relocation – had been leaked through the classic cc-instead-of-bcc email blunder, echoing the previously reported breach of 250 Afghan interpreters' data through a similar failure.

An MoD spokeswoman said in a statement: "We have been made aware of a data breach that occurred earlier this month by the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (Arap) team. This week, the defence secretary instigated an investigation into data-handling within that team."

A defence official has reportedly been suspended from duty, following demands from defence secretary Ben Wallace for an immediate enquiry into how the blunder happened.

After the US-led military coalition left Afghanistan, a number of local civilians employed as translators were left behind as the Taliban re-established control over the country. Some of those civilians have since been murdered for their perceived support of the Western militaries.

Efforts to evacuate those people have been patchy, though the British government has established a scheme to admit them to the UK as refugees. Security, however, is an obvious priority; for many of the interpreters left behind after the British military pulled out, security through obscurity is the only defence they have left.

As we reported when the first breach came to light, in the tech industry we joke about data breaches having lethal consequences for people's careers. Failures like these expose people to the risk of torture and murder.

In early September, as the dust was still settling from the West's departure, the Taliban got its hands on biometric data that the US-backed Afghan security forces had collected from voters – including women and other minorities. ®

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