Carelessness by British security agents is proving embarrassing for the government. The latest in a series of misplaced documents: a file detailing police plans to protect Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, who visited London this week.
Someone on a London street picked up the lost dossier full of secret information about Musharraf's whereabouts and police plans for protecting the important ally, London's Metropolitan Police said.
The loss of the papers was a big embarrassment for officials, especially because it was one of a string of incidents in which those entrusted with confidential security and intelligence documents have misplaced them.
Police said Wednesday they were investigating how the file ended up on the street, where they said a member of the public had found it and turned it into a national newspaper, which gave the papers to police on Monday.
The newspaper, the Daily Mirror, ran the banner headline "Security Shambles" and said Musharraf was "the world's No. 3 terrorism target."
The Pakistani president has faced opposition at home to the tough stance he's taken against Islamic extremists in Pakistan and has survived at least three assassination attempts in recent years.
Police said the documents contained details of demonstrations planned during Musharraf's visit, a background memo on laws relevant to policing the visit and a "list of deployments" for Sunday, the day the Pakistani president arrived from Washington, where he had met US President George W. Bush.
Police said the papers did not detail Musharraf's personal protection arrangements.
They said they had reviewed all policing arrangements once they learned the documents had been lost and consulted with the Pakistani High Commission, or embassy.
The Daily Mirror said the 17-page document revealed the president's movements during his three-day visit to Britain, plus police radio channels and call signs being used.
"What if we had been al-Qaeda?" asked the Mirror, which said the file was found in the exclusive Mayfair district of London in a brown envelope outside a restaurant.
The document, signed by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens, also described security arrangements at the hotel where Musharraf was staying and included maps showing his itinerary, the newspaper said.
Musharraf met Monday with Prime Minister Tony Blair and addressed lawmakers in Parliament Tuesday. He was in France Wednesday.
It's not the first time security secrets have gotten lost in Britain and become public.
In July, a dossier detailing anti-terrorism plans at Heathrow airport was found at the side of a road a few hundred meters from the airport.
The Sun newspaper reported that the papers showed 62 sites at Heathrow from which terrorists were most likely to launch anti-aircraft missile strikes, including one described as "an excellent site to attack aircraft departing Heathrow." They reportedly included facts about escape routes, evacuation plans and road closures.
In 2000, an agent from the MI6 spy agency left a laptop computer in a taxi after a night drinking at a tapas bar, but the Foreign Office said it contained training information, not intelligence.
A few days earlier, a laptop containing classified information on Northern Ireland was stolen from an intelligence worker from Britain's internal MI5 security service at a London Underground station.