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Ministry of Defence official suspended over Afghan interpreter data leak

THE Ministry of Defence has launched an investigation into a data breach that put lives at risk after an email was sent revealing the identities of 250 Afghan interpreters. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace apologised today for the “significant” breach, telling MPs that a staff member has been suspended pending an investigation. 

On Monday afternoon, the MoD sent an email to Afghan interpreters hoping to come to Britain that mistakenly copied in their email addresses so they were visible to all applicants, Mr Wallace said. 

They have now been advised to delete the messages and change their email addresses. 

Mr Wallace told the Commons: “I have directed extensive steps are taken to quantify the potential increased risk to individuals in order to take further steps to protect them.”

But one interpreter who received the email told the BBC the mistake could cost lives. 

“Some of the interpreters didn’t notice the mistake and they replied to all the email [addresses] and they explained their situation, which is very dangerous,” he said. “The email contains their profile pictures and contact details.”

The MoD believes there are 900 “credible cases” for resettlement under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) who are still in Afghanistan.

Opposition MPs criticised the Defence Secretary in the Commons today, with one Labour MP warning that there was a “habit forming” of data breaches.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper also pushed Mr Wallace to look at the case of a man whose wife was shot a few days ago by the Taliban following threats by a senior leader of the militant group. 

The man had worked for a British project for many years but, despite this, his two applications for the Arap scheme have so far been ignored, she said. 

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