Sir John Sawers, the incoming head of Great Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, landed in some hot water due to his wife sharing more information on Facebook than is appropriate for the wife of a nation’s top spy.
When you think of MI6, more appropiately known as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), you think of James Bond sipping vodka martinis after having just survived yet another attempt on his life. Of course pop culture has glamorized what it’s really like to be a spy, and now news has come out that makes it even less glamorous when you find out sharing vacation pictures on Facebookcould lead to a breach of national security.
The The Mail on Sunday discovered that Lady Shelley Sawers posted numerous personal details of her family life on Facebook including the location of the family’s London flat, pictures of them on holiday, the names & locations of their three adult children and pictures of famous friends. Once the newspaper contacted the Foreign Office with the information, all traces of the personal pictures and identifying information was removed from the site, but the damage may have already been done. Not only had Lady Sawers posted this potentially damaging information, she had left it open to be viewed by any member of the London network on the site. Seeing as you don’t have to provide any proof of your connection to the city of London to belong to the group, this information could have been viewed by any of the over 200 million members of the social network.
Sir Sawers has not yet taken over the position, and isn’t due to do so until November of this year. MP Patrick Mercer voiced concerns to the BBC in an audio interview about any member of a family in such a sensitive position posting such details to the Internet. And if you had any question if this really is dangerous to his job or family, MP Mercer also addressed why it is a concern:
This is the sort of material that enemy agencies, or people who wish such a high profile individual… or an individual who shouldn’t be high profile! Lets face it, in that sort of job, it’s exactly the sort of stuff they need to make his job that much more difficult than it needs to be.
If you think Lady Sawers did this prior to her husband taking the post, think again. According to the origina article in The Mail on Sunday, she posted 19 of the controversial photos on June 16th, the same day that it was announced her husband would be taking this job. She then posted 26 more the following day after it was well known her husband had been named to this sensitive postion .While there have been stories before about how Facebook can hurt your career, none of them have ever been to an extent where it could actually put people’s lives at risk. By posting what seems like such mundane information to most people, what Lady Sawers actually did was put her friends and family at risk of kidnapping or potential death threats as foreign operatives try to find leverage over Britain’s top spy.
Edward Davy, the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman, is calling on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to launch an investigation in to the situation to determine if the breach was serious enough that Sir Sawers should not take up the post as head of the SIS. It should be an interesting story to watch in the coming months.