A second-hand camera sold on eBay by a top MI6 agent held secret records used in the fight against Al Qaeda terrorists. Names, snaps, fingerprints and suspects’ academic records were found in the memory of the digital device.
Alongside them were photos of rocket launchers and missiles which spooks believe Iran is supplying to Usama Bin Laden’s henchmen in Iraq.
And a hand-drawn graphic revealed links between active Al Qaeda cells — with terrorists’ names and occupations.
Meanwhile a document marked "top secret" detailed the encrypted computer system used by real-life James Bonds working away from MI6’s London HQ.
Among those named in the material was 46-year-old Abdul al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who was captured by the CIA in 2007.
The fanatical Iraqi Kurd, one of Al Qaeda’s highest-ranking lieutenants, is being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay.
The Nikon Coolpix camera was snapped up for just $31 on the auction website by an innocent 28-year-old deliveryman who lives with his mum.
He discovered the secret material as he downloaded pictures from a U.S. vacation at his home in Hemel Hempstead, Herts.
A friend said: "He only bought the camera because he was going on vacation with his ex. He flew home early this month and downloaded his holiday pictures and saw some of rocket launchers and missiles. He knew he hadn’t taken them so asked friends about it and they suggested going to the police."
The man walked into Hemel Hempstead Police Station to report the matter, but cops initially treated it as a joke.
Yet within days Special Branch, the team of specialist anti-terror officers based in every county force, descended on his humble terraced home.
They took away the camera and the family’s PC and spent £1,000 replacing them.
Officers banned the shocked family from talking to the media.
A source said: “What a balls-up. This information would have been dynamite in the wrong hands.”
Terrorism author Neil Doyle said: “These are MI6 documents relating to an operation against Al Qaeda insurgents in Iraq. It’s jaw-dropping they got into the public domain.
"Not only do they divulge secrets about operations, operating systems and previously unheard-of MI6 departments, but they could put lives at risk."
Special Branch were last night trying to trace the bungling M16 officer, who lives in the Home Counties. He faces the sack.
A Hertfordshire Police spokesman said: “We can confirm we seized a camera after a member of the public reported it. Intelligence officers are investigating.”
Top brass at MI6 and MI5 were rocked by the incident — the latest in a string of security lapses.
A government employee who left sensitive documents on a train in June is expected to be charged under the Official Secrets Act. The Cabinet Office official was suspended and interviewed by police after the papers, relating to Al Qaeda and the Iraq war, were handed to the BBC.
They were left in an envelope on the train bound for Surrey from London.