Feeds

Hunt for MPs' expenses leaker hots up

Damaging data flogged around Fleet Street

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More details have emerged about how confidential information on MPs' expenses might have found its way into the hands of journalists.

The information, which has led to a string of articles that exposed how elected representatives made a series of questionable claims, was purchased by the Daily Telegraph from a seller who offered the data to other Fleet Street newspapers.

This data includes a hard drive containing expense claims made by MPs over the last five years, together with two million supporting documents including copies of expense claim forms, The Guardian reports. How someone managed to smuggle data from a classified machine onto a (presumably) external hard disc, much less smuggle out enough supporting paperwork to fill a van from the Palace of Westminster, remains unclear.

The circumstances suggest an insider, possibly one who works in the fees office, is behind the leak. The subsequent shenanigans make for a piece of political intrigue with shades of the thriller State of Play, with large hints of the caustic Westminster comedy The Thick of It.

On 18 March three journalists from The Times reportedly met with a broker to discuss the sale of the data at the offices of a public relations firm. An asking price of £300,000 - £250,000 for the data, £50,000 in analysis fees - was put on the table, along with a promise to provide legal indemnity during the 30 minute meeting, which involved discussion of snippets of the data on offer. The Times turned down the deal.

The businessman brokering the deal was identified by the Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times (here) and the Mail on Sunday (here) as John Wick, a former SAS major and current director of risk management and security firm International Security Solutions Limited (ISSL). Henry Gewanter, managing director of PR firm Positive Profile, reportedly assisted Wick.

El Reg spoke to Gewanter, who declined to comment. Staff at ISSL said that Wick was out of the office and unavailable for comment. We've left a message and will update this story as and when Wick gets in touch.

ISSL specialises in "corporate risk management" which, according to case studies on its site, involves everything from running kidnap and ransom response to tracking suspected internal fraud for a Caribbean telecoms firm, and defending an unnamed electronics firm against charges of violating UN sanctions.

In late March the Sunday Express ran an exclusive that home secretary Jacqui Smith's husband paid to watch a couple of X-rated films, the cost of which was subsequently claimed back on expenses. The data used to stand up this story apparently came from the same source.

Days after this scoop, The Sun was offered a portion of the expense claims information, but editor Rebekah Wade walked away from the deal after first offering only £20,000 for the information, a decision she reportedly regrets.

The seller next approached The Telegraph, which agreed an undisclosed deal and begin printing a series of stories. Whoever sold the information could find it hard to argue that they acted in the public interest after attempting to profit by auctioning the information around Fleet Street.

Intermediaries in the deal might also be implicated. Should police press on with an investigation, then editors at both the Sunday Express and the Daily Telegraph could also have reason to worry.

Fleet Street insiders describe the deal as amateurish, mainly because neither the Daily Mail nor the Mail on Sunday, the two papers likely to pay the highest fees, were offered the scoop. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
Apple tried to get a ban on Galaxy, judge said: NO, NO, NO
Judge Koh refuses Samsung ban for the third time
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.