By Adam Lusher and Sean ThomasNato Kosovo plan leaked on Net
Sunday 2 April 2000
A security blunder allowed sensitive Nato military plans to turn up on the internet, The Telegraph can reveal.
British intelligence is investigating how the nine-page document, which details the rules of engagement for Nato soldiers serving in Kosovo, began flashing up on the computer screens of a London publishing company.
An employee of the magazine publishers who asked not to be named said: "It's not really what you expect to find on your computer first thing in the morning - something telling you in fairly neutral language the circumstances under which you can kill someone in Kosovo. One of the people in the office was pretty disturbed by it."
The security breach - attributed to an unspecified "mistake" - is deeply embarrassing for Western defence and intelligence services. It comes after disclosures in the past fortnight that agents of MI5 and MI6 had lost laptop computers containing secret information. The full extent of the latest leak was still unclear last night, but it is likely that internet users all over the world will be able to view the Nato plans.
Jamie Shea, the Nato spokesman, expressed alarm. He said: "If it proves true that a Nato document has got into the public domain, it will be a matter of great concern to us. These are sensitive Nato documents. We would like to keep them classified and prevent them being compromised."
British military officials sought to distance themselves from the error yesterday, saying that the restricted information had probably been let out by one of London's Nato partners. An official said: "It is a security breach. It has not come from the UK military. We are only looking into it because we are the local security agency."
The Telegraph can reveal that the restricted information was an appendix to a plan for the Kosovo peacekeeping force, Kfor. The document appeared on two computers at the publishers on Wednesday morning. A staff member said: "Two people tried to open up a new document and instead all this started to scroll up. The next thing I knew, I was in a meeting around lunchtime when a message came from reception saying, 'Your guests have arrived.'
"As far as I was aware, no one was expecting any guests. There were two military intelligence officers in plain clothes waiting in reception, a man and a woman with a bob. It was like being visited by Mulder and Scully from the X-Files on television. They said words to the effect of, 'This is something we are very worried about,' and started to ask questions about it. The two people who found the virus were questioned for an hour, and told not to tell anyone about it.
"The whole idea of a document like this wandering round the globe completely unchecked is laughable. It doesn't look good for the security services concerned." The "Rules of Engagement for Land Operations" was dated December 23, 1999, and appeared to have been taken from operational plan 31402.
They cover the circumstances under which "appropriate measures, including the use of deadly force" may be used. The document tells Nato soldiers they should hand over war criminals to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia within 48 hours of capture. It also covers riot control, stopping media transmissions, and who should authorise everything from attack helicopters to mortars and tanks.
The military official said the plan and the rules of engagement attached were classified as "restricted" rather than "top secret". "But it doesn't detract from the fact that this document found its way on to a civilian company's system. We want to establish how it happened, so it doesn't happen with a more sensitive document."
He ruled out the possibility that the document had been obtained by hacking into military computers. It had ended up in the public domain "by mistake". He said: "How that happened, is what the investigation is going to establish".
A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed last night that investigators believed the leaked Nato document was genuine. He said: "We are aware of a computer virus containing text relating to military matters. Appropriate measures have been taken to investigate."