There were red faces among Royal Navy top brass after a sensitive document was left in a Portsmouth pub popular with sailors. The dossier, marked "restricted", detailed the planned exact movements of the frigate HMS St Albans in the Middle East including war-torn Iraq. It had been carelessly left behind by a crew member in the Albany pub.
This serious security lapse could have had dramatic consequences for sailors and Royal Marines on the ship if the secret document had fallen into the wrong hands. Student, Mike Blown, 22, who made the surprise find while playing pool at the pub in Commercial Road, said: “Had a terrorist got hold of the document, God knows what might have happened. It's very serious and incredibly sloppy of the military."
It was titled “HMS St Albans Longcast” and marked “restricted”. Confidential information like this is handed to all key crew of a naval ship before a deployment on the basis that it must not be “divulged to anyone”. However after a few drinks and a game of pool, one of the ship's company became very forgetful and the secret papers were left on the table in the pub.
The Longcast details the exact movements of the ship through operations in Iraq, Beirut, Bahrain, Qatar, Dubai, the Persian Gulf and Suez up to the end of 2007. It pin-pointed the times and dates of the ship’s exact location.
Blown handed the document to the a national newspaper. He said: “I immediately realised sensitive information had just been left lying around for anyone to pick up and I thought 'bloody hell'.”
It is possible that the ship’s schedule may now be forced to change in order to prevent possible terrorist attacks. Events that could mirror the suicide bombing of USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 which killed 17 sailors.
HMS St Albans is a Type 23 Frigate, the mainstay of the Navy's modern surface fleet. She has two missile launchers, a Sea Wolf anti-missile system, anti-submarine torpedoes, depth-charges, machine guns and decoy launchers. There is also an anti-submarine helicopter on board.
A Royal Navy spokesman commented that: “The document is not classified but it is sensitive and we make it clear that those given copies should look after them.” He continued: That this information has entered the public domain is very disappointing.”
Senior navy officers have spoken to the entire crew of HMS St Albans about the security lapse, the sensitive nature of the information and warning them that it must never happen again.