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October 31, 2005

Good God!

This is completely outrageous:

The Foreign Office has been left with a £500,000 telephone bill after a satellite phone belonging to a British diplomat was stolen in Baghdad.

It is understood that the thieves made thousands of calls to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

The Foreign Office would not say who it suspected of stealing the phone but the nature of the calls suggested that the thieves may have taken it to contact terrorist networks.

Intelligence agents are believed to be working through the dialled numbers in an attempt to trace the recipients.

It is thought that the phone was sent from Britain to a senior diplomat in Baghdad via a courier but that it never reached its destination.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, was reported to be "absolutely furious" and has ordered an inquiry into how such a security blunder could have occurred in such a volatile region.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "Following concerns about the misuse of one of our Thuraya satellite phones in Baghdad it was debarred from use by the company on 26 June 2005.

No, not that the phone got stolen, that happens. No, not that the thieves used it, that also happens. Sending a live phone, one that does not require further authentication, through the courier system is pretty foolish. No, what’s really amazing is the length of time they left it on. Half a million quid bill? Satellite phones are $3 or $4 a minute. 2 quid. So that 250,000 minutes....4,200 hours....173 days....that they used the phone continuously before someone noticed. That’s using the phone continuously for nearly 6 months before someone noticed the bill.

It looks like we really are becoming more European as that’s the sort of standard of accountancy we expect from the EU.

October 31, 2005 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink


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"..using the phone continuously for nearly 6 months.."

Loath as I am to credit our lords & masters with the smallest atom of intelligence, might it just have been left on because it had turned into a source of intelligence?

I know it is unlikely, but there is the tinyest possibility.

Posted by: APL | Oct 31, 2005 9:49:23 AM

Aside from the cheap EU-bashing, I think this is a case of the well-known principle that, after an officer with a map, the most dangerous thing in the world is an MI6 agent with a computer.

Remember when there was a tabloid story almost every week about spooks leaving laptops in pubs? Same principle.

Posted by: Alex | Oct 31, 2005 10:11:04 AM

I agree with APL. It was left on deliberately.

Posted by: auntymarianne | Oct 31, 2005 2:24:41 PM

Maybe the phone was left on for intelligence purposes. But if it was, how come the story got into the press? Either they goofed in the first instance or the second. Either way, they goofed.

Since the intelligence services are our "frontline against terrorism", one would hope that they recruit the best people available. Unfortunately that leads one to the conclusion that the other branches of government are staffed with even bigger muppets than the spooks.

It scares the pants off me that this is the same government that is saying: "Trust us to run a national database filled with oodles of your confidential, personal information. Honest."

Talk about sobriety and breweries!


Posted by: Remittance Man | Nov 1, 2005 7:12:17 AM