UK police probe eBay sale of MI6 camera

LONDON (Reuters) - Hertfordshire Special Branch is investigating how a camera holding sensitive information about al Qaeda suspects came to be lost by an MI6 agent, police said on Tuesday.

The headquarters of MI6 on the bank of the Thames in a file photo. REUTERS/File

Media reports said the Nikon digital camera was put up for sale on Internet trading site eBay and sold for just 17 pounds ($30).

Its memory had names of al Qaeda members, fingerprints and suspects’ academic records as well as pictures of rocket launchers and missiles, the Sun newspaper reported.

“We can confirm we seized a camera after a member of the public reported it,” said a statement by police in Hertfordshire after the camera was handed into Hemel Hempstead police station.

“Intelligence officers are investigating,” the statement added.

The Foreign Office confirmed the police investigation, but declined to comment further.

The incident is the latest in a series of embarrassing data losses to affect the intelligence services and the government.

On Monday, prosecutors said a senior public official who left top secret intelligence assessments of al Qaeda and the security forces in Iraq on a London commuter train is due to face charges under the Official Secrets Act.

Last year, a civil servant lost computer discs containing the names, addresses and bank details of 25 million people last year, while in January, the Ministry of Defense said it had lost a laptop containing personal data on 600,000 recruits.

The Home Office said in August that a contractor had lost personal details of every prisoner in England and Wales.

Reporting by John Joseph; Editing by Steve Addison