The wife of the designated head of Britain's premier spy agency posted pictures of her husband, family and friends on Facebook, the popular internet networking site, causing shock among security experts and calls for an enquiry.
Sir John Sawers was chosen last month to take over as head of the Secret Intelligence Service, the agency popularly known as MI6, in November. The agency has adopted a more public image in recent years, but its employees are still bound by strict secrecy rules.
In what the Mail on Sunday weekly called an "extraordinary lapse" in judgement, the new spy chief's wife, Lady Shelley Sawers, posted family pictures and details of where they live and take their holidays and who their friends and relatives are. The published details, accessible by any of the many millions of Facebook users around the world, were immediately removed once authorities were alerted by the newspaper's enquiries.
Security breach denied
David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, made light of the incident and denied there has been a security breach, giving Sawers his full support. "It's not a state secret that he wears speedo swimming trunks," Miliband said. "For goodness' sake, let's grow up!" Miliband told the BBC. But security experts remained shocked.
"It is a most distressing and unfortunate security lapse that will take a great deal of money to put right," Professor Anthony Glees, director of Buckingham University Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, said. Glees said that the children may now require an additional security detail and that the family may need to move to a new home.
The incident is one of a series of security blunders that have embarrassed the government of Gordon Brown, coming less than two weeks after the British prime minister launched Britain's first national cyber security strategy.
The Mail on Sunday, which published the story on its front page and pictures on a double-page spread, said the information "could potentially be useful to hostile foreign powers or terrorists."
Several government officials called on the government to launch an inquiry into the matter and have since questioned whether Sawers was the right man for the job.
Tags: Facebook, Sir John Sawers, Lady Sawers, Gordon Bown, David Milibrand, Anthony Glees, UK, M16, Secret Intelligence Service, Speedo, Spy agency, Global Best Practice,