BRITISH intelligence officials have launched an investigation into how classified documents relating to US trade talks, unveiled by Jeremy Corbyn during a press conference last week, were first leaked, amid claims the dossier has links to Russia.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ – the UK’s intelligence, security and cyber agency – have launched a probe into whether Russian hackers were involved in disseminating the leaked document, first shared on the social network site Reddit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn then publicised the classified dossier, claiming they proved the NHS would be “on the table” in post-Brexit US trade talks. But the origin of the documents has come under heightened scrutiny, after Reddit said on Friday it believed a Russian operation could be behind the release of 451 pages of the document.
According to the company, the documents were leaked possibly as part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
In response, Reddit said it banned 61 accounts it believed had links to the Russian information operation known as Secondary Infektion.
Secondary Infektion refers to a Russian operation exposed by Facebook earlier this year, which was found to be behind a string of largely failed attempts to disseminate fake news.
Nicky Morgan, the Culture Secretary, said it was “extremely serious” the leaked documents could be linked to Moscow.
She told the BBC: “I understand from what was being put on that website, those who seem to know about these things say that it seems to have all the hallmarks of some form of interference.
“And if that is the case, that obviously is extremely serious.
“And actually, as Culture Secretary, obviously one of the things that we are looking for and monitoring is any interference in our elections.”
The UK Cabinet Office, which oversees election security, told the Financial Times it would not comment on the leaks but said it had been looking into Reddit’s findings with support from the NCSC.
A spokesman said the department “welcomed” Reddit’s actions in banning the suspect accounts, and emphasised that online platforms should take responsibility for content posted on them.
The classified document on US trade talks were first published on the site in late October.
Mr Corbyn then presented the same documents at a news conference at the end of last month, using the dossier as “evidence that, under Boris Johnson, the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale”.
Labour has declined to reveal where it obtained the documents but said releasing them was in the public interest.
The party said: “These documents reveal the plot against our NHS.”
Mr Corbyn has come under fire for not disclosing how he obtained the documents and was accused of benefitting from a Russian trolling operation.
But he staunchly denied the criticism and said the claims were “nonsense”.
He said: “This is such an advanced state of rather belated conspiracy theories by the prime minister.
“When we released the documents, at no stage did the Prime Minister or anybody deny that those documents were real, deny the arguments that we put forward.
“We obtained those documents. We believed those documents to be correct and nobody until yesterday denied the correctness of those documents.
“The issue is there should be no interference in British politics by anybody else.
The Government has said it believes the documents are genuine.