28 July 2023

Privacy watchdog to make inquiries after MoD sends emails meant for US to Mali

28 July 2023

The privacy watchdog has said it will make inquiries amid reports that typing errors at the Ministry of Defence led to emails containing information relating to personnel being sent to a Russian ally.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it is aware of the incident and will be “making inquiries”.

The PA news agency understands the ICO has not launched an investigation at this stage.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it is investigating, but insisted it would be misleading to suggest state secrets were sent to Mali’s email domain.

In a statement on Twitter, the MoD said: “We assess fewer than 20 routine emails were sent to an incorrect domain and are confident there was no breach of operational security or disclosure of technical data.

We are aware of this incident and will be making inquiries

“An investigation is ongoing. Emails of this kind are not classified at secret or above.”

An ICO spokesperson said: “We are aware of this incident and will be making inquiries.”

The emails were reportedly intended for the Pentagon but were sent to Mali because of the accidental omission of an “i” from an email address.

British officials sent the messages to an address ending with the west African country’s .ml domain, rather than the US military’s .mil.

The same error in the US was revealed last week to have resulted in millions of military emails going to Mali.

The Times reported that one email sent to Mali this year revealed the names of British and American personnel researching hypersonic design.

Most of the emails contained trivial information, including dates when MoD and Foreign Office staff were on holiday, the paper reported.

The MoD said on Thursday: “All sensitive information is shared on systems designed to minimise the risk of misdirection.

“The MoD constantly reviews its processes and is currently undertaking a programme of work to improve information management, data loss prevention, and the control of sensitive information.”

Mali was among the six African countries promised free grain shipments by Russian President Vladimir Putin after the collapse of the Black Sea deal with Ukraine.

Moscow’s Wagner mercenaries have also been deployed in Mali to fight alongside the army against jihadists.

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