Penultimate week, two related events happened in the United Kingdom that prompted many people, especially security experts to ask the question, “Is the flare of secrecy disappearing in the land of James Bond?”
To begin with was the case of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who resigned after The Sun newspaper ran on its cover a picture of the British health czar kissing his top aide in office.
- Oba of Benin, Obaseki differ on repatriation of looted artifacts
Nigeria makes history, shock US in pre-Olympic basketball friendly
This scandal was viewed as a beginner guide to British humour, absurd, embarrassing and borderline dangerous. Frankly, it wasn’t a matter of surprise because if the word embattled ever had a face, it would be named “Matt Hancock.”
Hancock’s pandemic response to the scandal was said to have caught the attention of the British media, and the alleged lost favour by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, so his exit was predictable.
But the unpredictable drama leading up to it was the status of Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo. For those wondering, yes, both parties are married, Hancock for 15 years.
Unfortunately for Hancock, the drama doesn’t end there, Coladangelo was his longtime friend. He hired her as a lobbyist by himself, so you can see where this is going.
The public reaction was furious. At first, no one likes a cheating politician, and secondly, the Heath czar has violated his own rule of social distancing, which he kept emphasizing on.
In one of his recent television interviews, Hancock was quoted to have said that, “The social distancing rule applies for everyone and they are incredibly important and judged seriously; and the reason is that it is the means we get control of this virus.”
This whole episode had triggered controversy. Had the British government offices bugged? Also, where are these leaks coming from?
The Sun claimed that the picture was from a concerned whistleblower, but sources in the office said the duo do not have many friends in the department. So the leak is not all that inconceivable but it doesn’t make it right.
The Mail on Sunday reported that a whistleblower in the Department of Health had obtained the footage, while The Sunday Times stated that the camera had been hidden inside a smoke detector.
However, British politicians and security experts have raised concerns of potential foreign spying in the offices and corridors of Westminster.
That secret cameras are watching ministers is not a laughing matter, it is a national security issue. So what is the government planning to do, a full swift to find the perpetrators?
Charles Parton, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank said, “Having a Hikvison camera inside a minister’s office is not making sure we are as secure as possible.
“I very much doubt China has anything to do with it, but I do think it is unwise to have a Chinese camera in a government office. Don’t use Hikvision in places where there are sensitive comings and goings because those cameras can, and do transmit data back to China,” the former diplomat for 37 years, with postings in Mainland China and Hong Kong added.
Other analysts said British officers may want to check bus stops and dumpsites because that is where the handful of classified documents ended up. Fifty pages of secret documents were found near a bus stop.
Another row was the picking up of 50 pages of secret Intel document found near a bus stop in Kent, which the BBC called a “soggy heap.”
In this document were details of British warship. There were also references to recent stand-ups at the black sea. What was the warship doing there? Why were the strategy and the entire plan just lying around near a bus stop?
The UK Ministry of Defence knew about it. An employee reported losing this document just two weeks back, but how exactly do you just lose classified documents? And, how do they end up near a bus stop?
The Ministry of Defence said it had been informed last week of “an incident in which sensitive defence papers were recovered by a member of the public.”
“The department takes the security of information extremely seriously and an investigation has been launched. The employee concerned reported the loss at the time. It would be inappropriate to comment further,” a spokesperson said.
Britain’s main opposition, Labour Party, said the discovery of the documents by a member of the public was “as embarrassing as it is worrying for ministers.”
British rivals are also having blast on the social media. And here is what Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, “London has used a number of lies to cover up the latest provocation. 007 (James Bond) is no longer the same.”
“And now, a riddle-like question for the British parliament: Why do we need ‘Russian hackers’ if there are British bus stops?” Zakharova mocked the British government.
It is difficult to argue that, joke aside, the British have to act fast because the slip-up looks comical, but it can be disastrous for the British national security.
The land of James Bond is slipping off, the flare of secrecy is slowly disappearing.