Photography of secret documents carried by officials entering Downing Street should not be allowed to happen in future, the anti-terrorism watchdog has told the Prime Minister.
The criticism – which is not aimed at photographers – is contained in an independent review by Lord Carlile QC into anti-terror raids carried out by Greater Manchester Police earlier this year.
Britain’s anti-terrorism chief, Bob Quick, stepped down after he was photographed arriving in Downing Street, on 8 April, holding sensitive documents relating to the anti-terrorism operation, codenamed ‘Operation Pathway’.
Quick was seen and photographed by the press entering the front door of 10 Downing Street, carrying the confidential papers.
‘Some sensitive operational details about the investigation were visible in press photographs and television footage taken of his arrival,’ said Carlile who added that the incident ‘directly affected’ the subsequent anti-terror arrests.
‘It caused them to be brought forward by several hours from the original plan to arrest during the night, as the suspects might have been alerted by the media coverage.’
Carlile said that Quick’s behaviour ‘materially affected’ the locations of the arrests, and thereby possibly increased community tension and ‘concern to the general public’.
Carlile called on the Prime Minister to ensure that ‘in future, all persons attending meetings concerned with national security, wherever they occur, should seek to avoid places where it is suspected cameras may be present, in the absence of a clear decision that publicity would in no way harm national security’.
The story made headlines worldwide and led to Amateur Photographer‘s news editor taking part in a discussion about the matter on Sky News the following day.
This was not the first time that secret papers have been captured by a press photographer.
In 2008 a picture by Press Association photographer Lewis Whyld exposed the government’s private fears over the housing market.
The photo showed a sheet of typed notes carried by former Housing Minister Caroline Flint into a Cabinet meeting at Number 10.
The picture outlined the minister’s secret fears and predicted ‘sizeable falls in prices later this year’.
? Today a review is expected to heavily criticise police over tactics used at this year’s G20 protests. Earlier this year an interim police inquiry stated that police officers must have greater awareness and recognition of the UK Press Card used by photographers and journalists.