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UK military officer suspected of leaking secret Afghanistan data to rights group

[JURIST] The British Ministry of Defence (MOD) [official website] confirmed Wednesday that a UK Army officer was arrested in Afghanistan [MOD blog post] and returned to the London for questioning on suspicion of revealing secret information to a human rights organization. Lt. Col. Owen McNally is accused [Sun report] of violating the Official Secrets Act 1989 [text] by supplying civilian casualty figures to a woman from a human rights group. A conviction under the statute entails a maximum 14 year prison sentence. The MOD is releasing no further details at this time.

Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has published very specific data [HRW report] related to civilian casualties in Afghanistan, which US and NATO forces feel undermines their efforts there. The UK Parliament [official website] recently debated security-related reporting restrictions [JURIST report], as opponents have criticized the Secrets Act for precluding important issues from public debate. Corporal Daniel James was convicted of violating the Secrets Act in November 2008. Unlike McNally, James was accused of relaying British military information to Iran.

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