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The BBC's Jack Baine
"The laptop was stolen from a senior naval officer"
 real 28k

Geoff Hoon, UK Defence Secretary
"This laptop as I understand did not contain any classified information"
 real 28k

Monday, 22 May, 2000, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Stolen MoD laptop recovered
Laptop may hold "commercially sensitive information"
The government has denied that a military laptop computer recovered after it was stolen a fortnight ago contained any classified information.

Defence Minister Geoff Hoon told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It may well have contained some commercially sensitive material but it had no implications for the security of the country."

Mr Hoon said the theft - at London's Paddington train station - was a matter for the police, and that as the PC belonged to a US official there was no need for a government inquiry.

The computer was handed back to the Ministry of Defence after being recovered by a newspaper. The paper said the laptop contained secret information on a fighter plane project.

No implications for national security

Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary

The Mirror newspaper said it returned the laptop to the MoD on Sunday, after it was passed on to reporters by a computer dealer who had acquired it.

It claimed the computer contained diagrams and construction details of the futuristic Anglo-US Joint Strike Fighter Project.

Laptop computers: a target for thieves
The laptop is also reported to have held a message reinforcing the need to maintain secrecy about the fighter project and a briefing note to Mr Hoon.

But an MoD spokesman said nothing on the 2,000 computer was considered classified.

He said: "There is information on it and briefing notes which clearly we would have preferred to stay in-house but nothing which would damage national security.

"There is nothing which is classified in terms of needing to be protected for reasons of national security."

As it was theft, he said, the case was being dealt with by the MoD police.

But he said there would be an "examination" of the case by security authorities.

"We would also all want to take to heart the need to protect our equipment when out," added the spokesman.

Catalogue of errors

The laptop is the latest in a series to be lost or stolen while in the care of senior military or intelligence personnel.

In early March, an MI6 officer left one in a taxi after spending the evening drinking in a south London tapas bar.

The computer, which contained training information for the spy agency concerned with foreign intelligence, was recovered by police two weeks later.

The same month, a second laptop with classified material on Northern Ireland was snatched from a MI5 security service officer at Paddington when he put it down to buy a train ticket. It has not been found.

In the latest incident, the naval officer lost his computer and his personal luggage after boarding a train at Paddington station in early May.

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