UK Ministry of Defence Leaks Afghan Interpreters’ Identities, Apologizes

A recent blunder by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence could have severe implications for Afghan interpreters seeking asylum in light of the recent Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. In an email sent to Afghan interpreters — both those who remain in the country and those who have been able to find refuge in other countries — the Ministry of Defence accidentally leaked the identities and addresses of 250 Afghan interpreters.

While the communication was intended for the interpreters, all of the recipients were copied on the email, meaning that recipients of the email were able to view the identities and email addresses of all the other recipients. In addition to names and email addresses, some of the recipients had profile pictures associated with their email account, meaning their photo could also be accessed. Most of these interpreters remain in hiding, and some commentators say the mistake could cost lives. 

“I apologize to those Afghans affected by this data breach and with (the Home Office) we are now working with them to provide security advice,” said the country’s defense secretary Ben Wallace, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). “It is an unacceptable level of service that has let down the thousands of members of the armed forces and veterans. On behalf of the Ministry of Defence, I apologize.”

According to a report from the BBC, the UK’s Information Commissioner has already begun investigating the Ministry of Defence. One official has already been suspended for the error, and the ministry is taking precautions to ensure that similar mistakes do not occur in the future.

The plight of Afghan interpreters has been of great concern lately, due to the United States’ withdrawal from the country. Shortly before the war in Afghanistan officially ended, the Taliban swiftly took over Kabul. While some experts speculate that the Taliban has softened its ruthlessness in recent years — and the Taliban has claimed this as well — the future remains uncertain for many of the Afghan interpreters who aided U.S. troops throughout the decades-long war in Afghanistan.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.


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