Ben Wallace launches Afghanistan probe as data breach ‘could cost life of interpreters’

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The Secretary of Defence has said an investigation will be launched within its services after a valuable email to Afghan interpreters was sent with all 250 recipients visible instead of blind copied. A single administrative error “could cost the life of interpreters, especially for those who are still in Afghanistan,” one interpreter who received the email told the BBC.

Sent by the team in charge of the UK’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), the email was to update interpreters who remain in Afghanistan or have been able to get to other countries.

All receivers are seeking relocation to the UK as former collaborators of the British forces in the country.

In some cases, a photo was attached to the email addresses.

“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,” said the anonymous interpreter.

“The email contains their profile pictures and contact details.”

Since the Taliban’s swift victory, Afghan interpreters who previously worked for the British Armed Forces have been forced to hide fearing reprisals.

The MoD then sent another email 30 minutes later with the title “Urgent – ARAP case contact” asking the recipients to delete the previous email and warning “your email address may have been compromised”.

After realising its mistake, the Minister of Defense recommended the interpreters change their email addresses and publicly apologised in a statement.

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“An investigation has been launched into a data breach of information from the Afghan Relocations Assistance Policy team,” a spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.

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

She added that the MoD “takes its information and data handling responsibilities very seriously”.

Mr Wallace called it an “unacceptable breach”.

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Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said: “We told these Afghans interpreters we would keep them safe, instead this breach has needlessly put lives at risk.”

“The priority now is to urgently step up efforts to get these Afghans safely to the UK”

The last UK plane flying people out of Kabul left on September 4th but many people eligible to come to Britain, including these 250 email recipients, are still waiting for relocation.

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