BBC unit loses confidential information related to secret military unit

Highly sensitive and confidential information relating to the Military Reaction Force (MRF) the secret British Army unit, which allegedly shot unarmed civilians in Northern Ireland had been "lost" by the BBC's investigative team on the Panorama programme, belfasttelegraph.co.uk reported.

The material, including information on former soldiers from the unit, was compromised due to a security lapse.

It was understood that the leak had compromised the identity of at least one former serviceman from the elite unit.

The secretive MRF comprised personnel from Special Air Service, the Special Boat Service, the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment.

The compromised file also contained the names and details of other senior military figures.

The major data loss was being investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The data loss allegedly happened after an inexperienced researcher of the Panorama team of the BBC downloaded a cache of material from an online dropbox service on to a USB stick and handed it over to a third party.

The matter is being treated as a potential criminal offence under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act, it is understood.

The data was initially believed to relate only to programme's investigation into alleged questionable practices at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The file was leaked to the office of the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, as she believed the documentary, broadcast in April, was not balanced.

Meanwhile, the ICO has confirmed to The Register that it was examining the allegations about the MRF material.

According to a spokesman at the watchdog, the office was aware of a possible data breach at Films of Record [the company which made the Tower Hamlets Panorama programme, The Mayor and Our Money].

He said the office was making enquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needed to be taken.

The BBC offered no comment beyond claiming that there had been "a lot of baseless speculation on the circumstances surrounding this programme."