LONDON – A document outlining the British military's response to a terrorist attack was found in a roadside ditch, the Ministry of Defense said Thursday.
A ministry spokesman said the document had been in a backpack stolen earlier this year.
"We can confirm that a rucksack belong to a serving officer was stolen from a locked car in May," the spokesman said on condition of anonymity as a civil servant. "This rucksack contained a 'restricted' document."
The 46-page dossier was handed to The Sun, Britain's largest-selling daily newspaper. The file was discovered in the discarded gym bag after it had been stolen from the car of a staff officer with the Defense Ministry's counter-terrorist wing while he was shopping, the newspaper reported Thursday.
According to The Sun, the document contained information about how special forces and bomb disposal experts would be deployed in the event of a terrorist strike, and how many helicopters are available to be scrambled.
The report said phone numbers of senior military figures — including the defense secretary, chief of defense staff and director of special forces — were in the document.
"This particular document contained reference material only and no secret information. Whilst the loss of any classified document is treated seriously, the accusation that the loss is a threat to national security is wildly exaggerated," the ministry spokesman said.
Two years ago, documents detailing Heathrow Airport counterterrorism plans were found by a motorist. They reportedly showed 62 sites at the airport which were the most likely places to launch anti-aircraft missile strikes.
In May 2004, secret details of the new identity given to Maxine Carr, the girlfriend of a notorious child killer, were stolen from an official's car while she was visiting a pub.
In June 2002 an 11-page dossier belonging to then Home Secretary David Blunkett, marked 'confidential' and including instructions for his home alarm system and daily routines as well as aerial photographs of his house, were discovered in a street.
Wing Commander David Farquhar was found guilty of negligence by a court martial and stripped of five years' seniority.
In 2002, a crackdown was ordered to tighten laptop security after it was disclosed that 1,933 Government computers had been lost or stolen.