Security chiefs have accused the Defence Secretary of leaking secret intelligence about the threat from Russia to distract from his admission of an affair
Security chiefs have accused the Defence Secretary of leaking secret intelligence about the threat from Russia to distract from his admission of an affair.
Gavin Williamson told the Telegraph this week that Russia was plotting to kill thousands of Britons in a cyber attack.
Bosses at the security services were today said to be furious at the declaration, believing it to be based on classified information, including some provided by allies.
The claims emerged on the same day Mr Williamson separately issued a statement to the Mail admitting to an old affair.
Sources close to Mr Williamson deny the timing was in any way leaked and said all the information he disclosed about Russia was cleared by the Ministry of Defence.
They point out the Government has announced new protections for civil infrastructure from cyber attacks as recently as today.
Mr Williamson’s confession of infidelity was widely seen in Westminster as ‘clearing the decks’ for a future leadership challenge when Theresa May stands aside.
The Prime Minister has handed him two huge promotions since entering No 10 and is thought to back him as her successor.
One security official told the Sunday Times of concerns that going into such detail about what is known about Russian surveillance in the UK could compromise sources and anger the UK’s intelligence partners: ‘He used intelligence, not all of it the UK’s, to try to distract attention.’
A defence source added: ‘People at GCHQ were furious.’
Mr Williamson’s confession of infidelity was widely seen in Westminster as ‘clearing the decks’ for a future leadership challenge when Theresa May (pictured in Maidenhead today) stands aside
The claims prompted allegations allies of Boris Johnson are attempting to ‘smear’ Mr Williamson and knock him out of the Tory race.
Friends of Mr Williamson said the Russia interview was planned long before his office received questions from the Guardian about the affair, prompting him to issue his confession.
What Mr Williamson told the paper about Russia was in line with what had already been revealed by defence chiefs.
An MOD spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that the Secretary of State did not release any classified material at any point during discussions with the media, and there has been no leak of intelligence on this subject from either the Secretary of State or the Ministry of Defence.’
Russian president Vladimir Putin (above) could target interconnectors – linking power between countries – potentially leaving millions of homes without electricity, Mr Williamson said
The Russian defence ministry ridiculed the claims as Major General Igor Konashenkov said the comments were like something of a Monty Python sketch.
The general told Russian news agency Tass: ‘Gavin Williamson in his fiery crusade for military budget money appears to have lost his grasp on reason.
‘His fears about Russia getting pictures of power plants and studying the routes of British pipelines are worthy of a comic plot or a Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch.’
In his warning to the Telegraph, Mr Williamson said just because the Russian would not land troops in Brighton or Scarborough the threat had not diminished.
He said: ‘They are going to be thinking, ‘How can we just cause so much pain to Britain?’
‘Damage its economy, rip its infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, but actually have an element of creating total chaos within the country.’
Britain has three gas and four electricity interconnectors. It is believed up to eight million homes will be reliant on the international connections in the next few years.
According to Ciaran Martin (pictured), chief executive of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre, recent Russian cyber hacks have been on the energy sector