MoD/Navy gets Soggy with the PM
The boats don't leak but the bureaucracy can
The "breaking news" story by the BBC providing limited analysis of 50 pages of printed material of a sensitive nature from the UK's MoD proves the HMS Defender course into waters denied "innocent passage" by Russia some months earlier were absolutely a provocation.
My interest is the story behind it. Here is how the BBC describes their acquisition of the documents and the government's response to that:
Classified Ministry of Defence documents containing details about HMS Defender and the British military have been found at a bus stop in Kent.
... [about the contents]
The government said an investigation had been launched.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it is investigating "an incident in which sensitive defence papers were recovered by a member of the public". The MoD employee concerned reported the loss at the time, it said.
The documents, almost 50 pages in all, were found in a soggy heap behind a bus stop in Kent early on Tuesday morning.
A member of the public, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the BBC when he realised the sensitive nature of the contents.
The BBC believes the documents, which include emails and PowerPoint presentations, originated in the office of a senior official at the MoD.
Either the UK MoD have no procedures for the handling of sensitive information and/or are plainly incompetent, or this was a deliberate leak. I would love to assert that either is equally likely, but must assert the latter is the case. Would a senior member of the MoD or one of their principle assistants leave the MoD with printed copies of sensitive material and then put it in a rubbish bin at a bus stop? I mean, what were they doing at a bus stop in the first place? Let alone choosing to accidentally put 50 odd pages of sensitive material in the bin. It beggars belief.
If the concerned "member of the public" wanted to secure the information they would have contacted the MoD, not the BBC. If the concerned wanted to ensure publication of the information they would have contacted Wikileaks.
So, by a process of elimination we have the MoD sticking their fingers in the eye of their Prime Minister via the BBC to ensure very limited distribution of the material contained. By “very limited” I mean the only published document is the map, which has been crushed and is scanned at a sufficiently poor resolution to prevent you from reading any of it’s text.
If you think about it, it makes sense.
The map in the document shows not only the two planned routes for the HMS Defender, but also the exclusion zone issued by Russia in a Notice to Mariners around Crimea. This indicates that the UK Royal Navy are aware. We know that Dominic Raab was concerned about the planned route as it may play into the hands of "the Russians" and escalated the choice of route which was decided upon by the Prime Minister Johnson. We also know from the BBC journalist on board the destroyer that its weapons were ready and the ship was at action stations during the passage through the prohibited waters. Thus, both entering prohibited waters, and even more so, having weapons active, was placing the lives of the naval personnel at risk.
The other topic revealed by the BBC is a potential to have UK forces, i.e the SAS, remain behind in Afghanistan after the USA/NATO pullout. This "possibility" must come as a request from the USA. Again, this will leave UK forces in a vulnerable position.
What happened seems clear enough. We are the Navy and we follow orders (sail ships on idiotic courses), and as the Army possibly leave SAS behind in Afghanistan in vulnerable positions. However, as the MoD we have a bureaucracy and its full of civilians and they sometimes make mistakes.
The MoD has reprimanded the official whose documents were inappropriately handled, but could not identify how the sensitive documents were removed from information handling procedure MOD-I-INT-4.617.2. Maybe it was the cleaning lady.
Classified Ministry of Defence documents found at bus stop, BBC
Map of potential courses for HMS Defender, BBC republished at MoonOfAlabama
HMS Defender: Russian jets and ships shadow British warship, BBC