In a clear oversight of security protocols, Britain's most senior counterterrorism officer, Bob Quick, took Top Secret documents out of the office. The documents, in clear view in his arms, were then photographed by the press as he carried the documents up Downing Street. Bob Quick has resigned as a result of the incident.
The documents outline a Metropolitan Police Service and MI5 counterterrorist operation against al-Qaeda suspects. The document revealed details for a planned arrest of terrorist suspects following a long covert surveillance operation. Steps were made to censor the photographs (only successful in Britain) and Mr. Quick's location fearing that information would tip off the suspects. The operation was able to continue, with arrests made sooner than was planned, but it is still a major security blunder.
Bob Quick says he "deeply regretted" revealing the documents to photographers, and some people seem willing to forgive him for simply holding the paper the wrong way. However, the secret documents should not have been carried outside of secure areas in printed format - at the very least, they could have been transported in an encrypted drive. This is not the first incident where a government official has accidentally shown secret notes to the journalists who often wait outside of Downing Street.
Bob Quick resigned soon after the incidence, following a meeting with the home secretary and the Metropolitan Police commissioner.
"I have today offered my resignation in the knowledge that my action could have compromised a major counterterrorism operation.
I deeply regret the disruption caused to colleagues undertaking the operation, and remain grateful for the way in which they adapted quickly and professionally to a revised timescale."
It is a pity that the breach was made, but the repercussions are already wide-ranging. Not only has the public outcry damaged the trust in government security, but the MPS has lost its most senior, and experienced, counterterrorism specialist. This should underscore the importance of having a clear security policy and ongoing employee training - at all levels - to ensure compliance to basic security measures.