The list of 117 names is believed to have been first posted on the Internet on Tuesday where it appeared on the website of an American magazine. It is thought that the magazine, Executive Intelligence Review, had obtained the information from a former MI6 officer, Richard Tomlinson. He has denied posting the list.
It is believed that British officials became aware of the site, either late on Tuesday or early on Wednesday morning.
By Wednesday afternoon, the Government had managed to get the list pulled from the site. The Government also managed to close down another site, this one belonging to Mr Tomlinson and listing eight names rather than 117.
But the Government's problems did not end there. The list was on the Internet long enough for various individuals to take a copy and repost it at different web addresses. In turn it is likely to be copied, or "mirrored" by more and more people who will repost it. John Young, the owner of one of the "mirror" websites, said: "It's secrecy which is the problem. By posting this site, we're being good citizens."
Compression software also enables an entire site to be e-mailed via "anonymous remailers", which strip off any identification of the sender before it goes to its destination.Reuse content