A civilian member of Metropolitan Police Service staff, Thomas Lund-Lack, was arrested last night in connection with the leaking of information to a reporter.
Lund-Lack is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court today, charged with breaches of the Official Secrets Act and misconduct. He is claimed to have passed an intelligence report claiming that Al Qaeda was planning a UK attack on "a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki" to the Sunday Times.
The Sunday Times ran a story to this effect on 22 April, claiming that it had been passed a report compiled by JTAC (Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre).
Even by the woeful standards of the current generation of terror scares, this story set new standards for implausibility. If this really is the sort of thing JTAC reports say, then we're in deep doo and the spooks have pretty well abandoned all attempts to maintain narrative integrity.
The alleged report was said to claim that Al Qaeda (Sunni, Arab) was "active in Iran" (Shiite, Iranian) and was planning "large scale" terrorist attacks on Britain and other western targets "with the help of supporters in Iran". The Sunday Times makes a passing nod to the infinite implausibility of this double act by saying there is "no evidence of a formal relationship between Al-Qaeda, a Sunni group, and the Shi’ite regime of President Mah-moud Ahmadinejad" but "experts suggest that Iran's leaders may be turning a blind eye to the terrorist organisation's activities."
The reference to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, meanwhile, is alleged to have been made by a member of Al Qaeda in Iraq's network in Kurdish Iran, describing an operation assessed by the report as "most likely to be a large-scale, mass casualty attack against the West". Using, one presumes, radioactive material diverted from a secret Revolutionary Guard smoke detector factory in Iranian Kurdistan.
Lund-Lack's arrest comes in the wake of an attack mounted on leakers by Met terror chief Peter Clarke. In a speech last month, Clarke complained of "a small number...of misguided individuals who betray confidences. Perhaps they look to curry favour with certain journalists, or to squeeze out some short term presentational advantage - I do not know what motivates them".
The particular leak (of information concerning raids that were currently in progress) Clarke had in mind had already been the subject of police complaints two months previously, but it was this second assault that set opposition parties off in search of a scalp.
Clarke's complaints did, however, cause a certain amount of eye-rolling, the Met complaining about leaks being rather like bears bitching about forest sanitary arrangements. Perplexingly, all sorts of information supportive of the Met's position seems to leak out of terror investigations and fall into the hands of reporters, and often quite a lot of it turns out to be entirely wrong (see, for example, the reporting in the immediate aftermaths of the Forest Gate raid and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezez).
The Met hierarchy seems not to complain about these incidents, nor have there been many complaints about the numerous terror screamers citing leaked documents previously published by, er, the Sunday Times. If Clarke is serious about ending leaks, it seems inescapable that a lot of senior police and security sources are going to have to spend a lot of time helping themselves with their enquiries. ®