Exclusive: New batch of terror files left on train

IoS returns confidential documents to Treasury as officials promise to tighten procedures

Secret government documents detailing the UK's policies towards fighting global terrorist funding, drugs trafficking and money laundering have been found on a London-bound train and handed to 'The Independent on Sunday'.

The government papers, left on a train destined for Waterloo station, on Wednesday, contain criticism of countries such as Iran that are signed up to the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body created to combat financial crime and the financing of terrorism.

The confidential files outline how the trade and banking systems can be manipulated to finance illicit weapons of mass destruction in Iran. They spell out methods to fund terrorists, and address the potential fraud of commercial websites and international internet payment systems. The files also highlight the weakness of HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) IT systems, which track financial fraud.

The Independent on Sunday has returned the documents, and will divulge no details contained in them.

This latest security gaffe involving top-level government documents is the second breach in the past week and is hugely embarrassing to Gordon Brown. The Government is already investigating the loss of other files by a senior intelligence officer in the Cabinet Office, who is understood to have been suspended. This official also left documents, containing a damning assessment of Iraqi forces and a Home Office report on "al-Qa'ida vulnerabilities", on a train. They were handed to the BBC.

The Government has been hit by a series of security breaches in the past year. HMRC lost two computer disks containing the personal details of 25 million people, while the details of three million driving-test candidates were mislaid.

Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, who is in Japan at the G8 meeting, has been told of the latest debacle, and his department insists steps are being taken to tighten security procedures.

Last night, a spokesman said the Treasury regretted the latest incident: "We are extremely concerned about what has happened and will be taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen in the future."

Opposition politicians reacted to the latest news with astonishment. Baroness Neville-Jones, shadow security minister, said the Government needed to "get a grip" on the issue of protecting sensitive data, and lamented "yet another example of a lapse in discipline".

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "This latest failure is extremely damaging to the Government's fight against terrorism as no one knows where the information may have ended up. This is another appalling embarrassment for an accident-prone government."

The discovery of these confidential files is all the more embarrassing as they relate to a week-long global financial crime conference, organised by the FATF, which starts in London tomorrow.

Sir James Sassoon, the Treasury's ambassador to the City, is president of FATF, the Paris-based watchdog, which has 32 members around the world.

The revelations will come as a blow to Sir James, who is hosting this week's gathering of 450 of the world's leading anti-crime experts. He was unavailable for comment but sources say he is furious about the latest security breach. It is particularly galling as Britain has had a successful year holding the FATF presidency.

The files include briefing notes for the closed conference – to be held at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre – and draft speeches to be delivered by British officials at No 11 Downing Street on Wednesday at a reception for the most senior FATF representatives. Officials at the reception will include the Deputy Assistant Secretary to the US Treasury, Daniel Glaser, and Antonio Gustavo Rodrigues, Brazil's incoming FATF president.

The FATF has already expressed its concern that Iran lacks an effective system to prevent money laundering. It wants Iran to criminalise the financing of terrorism and stop illicit money being diverted to its nuclear programme. The watchdog says this is a significant vulnerability within the international financial system.

It is negotiating with countries such as China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Burma and the Comoros on their anti-terrorism policies.

Misplaced secrets: Lost laptops, disks and dossiers

The British government has an ignoble history of misplaced sensitive files, in paper and electronic form. The most serious loss of sensitive data came in 1990 when a laptop containing plans for the first Gulf War was stolen from the boot of a car in west London. The computer contained detailed information about how the military planned to remove Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait. The RAF officer responsible for the laptop was court-martialled, but the secrets were never leaked.

In 2000 a laptop was stolen from the home of Armed Forces minister John Spellar, the man responsible for Britain's nuclear secrets. The burglar ignored two red boxes containing potentially sensitive documents.

That same year, an MI6 officer left a laptop in a taxi after a night drinking in a bar. Another was snatched when an MI5 officer put it down while buying a ticket at a Tube station. A Royal Navy laptop was stolen in Manchester in 2006, and an Army laptop containing data on 500 people was stolen from a recruiting office in Edinburgh in 2005.

In January 2008, a laptop with details of 600,000 people interested in joining the armed forces went missing. The theft caused concern in light of a terrorist plot in which Muslim extremists planned to kill a British serviceman. The MoD then banned staff from taking home laptops with unencrypted data.

In April, a thief stole the laptop of an Army captain from under his chair at a McDonald's near the MoD. And only last week, secret files on the threat from al-Qa'ida were left on a train.

Mark Taylor

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution