Boris Johnson and three Ministers breached national security guidance over private messages

Boris Johnson and at least three of his Ministers, Matt Hancock, Lord Bethell and Greg Hands, have repeatedly breached their own national security guidance by using private emails and phones for Government business. 

The documents, unearthed in the course of our legal action, show Boris Johnson and other Ministers were warned 2 years ago that their personal phones and emails were vulnerable to hackers. And were issued with a ‘Security of Government Business policy’, which explicitly banned the use of private accounts:

“Your personal IT will not be as secure as departmental IT. You should not use your personal devices, email and communications applications for government business at any classification.” (Paragraph 68)

Despite this policy, and for reasons which remain unclear, Ministers continue to use private email accounts, and private devices and communications apps, for government business. We do not understand what good reason there can be for breaching this policy with the additional jeopardy to government and national security… although we can think of a number of bad ones.

And it’s not just one Minister. Or a handful of emails. The breaches are on an industrial scale. Just yesterday we revealed Government’s own lawyers confirmed that searches of the Health Minister Lord Bethell’s private emails using keywords relating to Covid contracts turned up hits of between 18,000 and 36,000 separate documents.

The documents also reveal that No 10’s WhatsApp policy has only been in place since March 2021. Prior to that it seems WhatsApp was not allowed to be used at all for Government business. WhatsApp can only be used for things like: ‘confirming who is in the office’, ‘confirming a time for a meeting’, confirming receipt of a document’, or ‘arranging staff social activities’.

But we know back in March 2020 Ministers, officials and Dominic Cummings were discussing Covid testing progress via WhatsApp group.

How can anyone be certain that critical information is not being lost, or worse, deleted?

The law requires relevant messages to be preserved and recorded. Government has, so far, failed to provide us with any evidence it is acting in compliance with the law. So we’ve filed judicial review proceedings.

This Government is to transparency as vampires are to sunlight. And we will do our damnedest to drag them into the light. But we could use your help. If you are in a position to do so, you can support us
here

Unlike the UK Government, we welcome transparency. We are publishing our Statement of Facts and Grounds and the Witness Statement of our Legal Director, Gemma Abbott, in full.


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