Panorama researcher leaked data on secret army unit in NI

Jul 3, 2014

Security of one member of controversial Military Reaction Force has been compromised by leak


A researcher who spent just five days working on a Panorama programme for the BBC has compromised the secrecy surrounding a secret British Army unit which acted "like a terror group" during the troubles in Northern Ireland.

The identity of at least one former member of the Military Reaction Force (MRF) was contained on a memory stick that the researcher deliberately leaked. Names of other senior military figures may also have been included.

The MRF was a shadowy unit which some opponents allege was an 'execution squad', a label denied by ex-members. However, one former soldier told Panorama: "We were there to act like a terror group." Members therefore spoke to the programme on condition of anonymity.

The "inexperienced" researcher wanted to leak information about a different Panorama programme that dealt with alleged corruption at Tower Hamlets Council. She may or may not have known that the stick also contained data about Northern Ireland, says The Independent.

The researcher gave the data stick to the office of the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman. Rahman, a Bangladeshi, is facing a government inquiry started after Panorama claimed he had improperly channelled grants to Bangladeshi groups.

The Independent reported previously that the "junior researcher, who was of Bangladeshi background" claims she was "acting on her conscience and in the public interest" in giving the entire file assembled by the filmmakers to Rahman.

Concerned that data protection law may have been violated, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is investigating the leak, made while the researcher was working for respected independent production company Films of Record, headed by veteran documentary maker Roger Graef.

The researcher is understood to have believed that the Tower Hamlets programme, titled The Mayor and Our Money, was unfair. She told The Independent: "My basic point was that this is damaging to the Bengali community."

The newspaper says Rahman's office reviewed the material on the stick through its lawyers and adds that the copy of the file has "now been destroyed".

It is not certain how the Tower Hamlets file came to contain secret information about Northern Ireland from a programme made by a different production company, Twenty2vision. One possibility is that the BBC forms due to be filled in when secret filming was planned were supplied to Films of Record before the data entered for the other film had been removed.

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So this Bangladeshi researcher thought the program was unfair because it could prove damaging to the Bangladeshi community. By her standards then any criticism of her community is effectively off limits. And this is cultural enrichment.