London, September 21
Britain on Tuesday apologised for a data breach revealing details of people in Afghanistan seeking relocation to Britain after the Taliban retook control of the country when foreign troops withdrew earlier this year.
Britain, the United States and other NATO members scrambled to evacuate their own nationals and others who had worked for them after the Taliban wrongfooted the West and seized control of Kabul much sooner than expected.
Defence Minister Ben Wallace said an email from Britain’s Afghan Relocations Assistance Policy —the scheme used to help interpreters and others who had worked for Britain—had compromised more than 250 recipients by copying, rather than blind-copying, their email addresses.
Wallace said he was sorry and launched an investigation.
“I apologise to those Afghans affected by this data breach and with whom we are now working … to provide security advice,” Wallace told parliament.
Lawmakers responded to Wallace by saying the breach had put the lives of those on the list at risk because the Taliban might be able to identify them and punish them for helping Western forces.
Wallace said those concerned had been advised to change their email address, and intelligence agencies were assessing risks to their safety.
Britain said during its exit from Afghanistan that not everyone eligible for relocation would be successfully evacuated in time, and has since committed to helping those left behind to get out.
Wallace said that of those cleared for relocation in the initial evacuation operation, 260 people and their families— a total of 1,232 people—were still in Afghanistan.