Liz Truss’s mobile phone was hacked by agents presumed to be working for Russia’s Vladimir Putin during the Tory leadership race, according to reports.
Andy Gregory www.independent.co.uk
Opposition parties have demanded an urgent investigation into whether the then foreign secretary’s phone was breached by Russian spies this summer and, if so, why the matter was kept from the public.
In his position at the time as outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson is alleged to have been informed of the hack immediately and agreed with his cabinet secretary Simon Case on a “total news blackout”.
The hackers are claimed to have gained access to sensitive information, including discussions with foreign officials about the war in Ukraine and details about arms shipments.
Messages between Ms Truss and her future chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, in which the pair were critical of Mr Johnson, were among a year’s worth of message which were compromised, leading to a potential risk of blackmail, it is claimed.
The phone has now been placed in a locked safe at a secure government location, one individual told the Mail on Sunday, which cited unnamed sources with knowledge of the incident in its report.
“This caused absolute pandemonium,” another told the newspaper, accusing Mr Johnson and Mr Case of suppressing the matter.
“It is not a great look for the intelligence services if the foreign secretary’s phone can be so easily plundered for embarrassing personal messages by agents presumed to be working for Putin’s Russia.”
Ms Truss reportedly changed her mobile number of 10 years shortly before entering Downing Street.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “There are immensely important national security issues raised by an attack like this by a hostile state which will have been taken extremely seriously by our intelligence and security agencies.
“There are also serious security questions around why and how this information has been leaked or released right now which must also be urgently investigated.
“It is essential that all of these security issues are investigated and addressed at the very highest level and we need to know that the government recognises the gravity of this and the importance of fully protecting our national security.”
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran called for “an urgent independent investigation to uncover the truth”, adding: “Was Liz Truss’s phone hacked by Russia, was there a news blackout and if so why?
“If it turns out this information was withheld from the public to protect Liz Truss’s leadership bid, that would be unforgivable.”
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, told Sky News: “I have seen these reports. I don’t know the value or the sources and so forth. It is something for the sister committee, the Intelligence and Security Committee I think to investigate further.”
The government said it would not comment on an individuals’ security arrangements, but a spokesperson added: “The government has robust systems in place to protect against cyber threats.
“That includes regular security briefings for ministers, and advice on protecting their personal data and mitigating cyber threats.”
Reports on the hacking come as Rishi Sunak is resisting demands to launch an inquiry into Suella Braverman for her security breach.
He reappointed her as home secretary just six days after she was forced out after sharing a sensitive document with a Tory backbencher from a personal email without permission.