Monday, April 27, 2009

Secrets missing in agent's handbag

LONDON: As the plane landed in the Colombian capital, Agent T must have felt excitement about her new assignment.
She was being posted to Bogota - the drugs capital of the world - to gather intelligence in the war against the global cocaine trade, worth $100 billion a year.
An undercover customs officer with Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency, she would be responsible for dozens of undercover agents providing information on drugs cartels.
In her handbag was a memory stick full of secret information she had downloaded from the computer systems at her former office, the SOCA station in Quito, Ecuador. On it, sources say, were "SOCA's crown jewels" - the names, code names, addresses and operational details of dozens of the agency's operatives.
After the plane landed at Bogota's El Dorado international airport in April 2006, Agent T boarded a transit coach to the terminal. She went through immigration and caught a bus to the centre of the city, near her new office at the British embassy. By the time she left the airport, her handbag - and the memory stick - were gone.
It was a blunder of catastrophic proportions. Such information was gold for Colombia's drug lords, and a potential death sentence for those identified.
According to insiders, there was panic at SOCA's headquarters in London when Agent T reported the mistake. Her boss, Paul Evans, a former MI6 officer, ordered an immediate internal inquiry, fearing his job was on the line. Agent T was recalled to London.
A source claims the cost of aborted operations and the relocation of informants was pound stg. 100 million ($204 million).

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