Recap: Andy Coulson, strap one

People are asking about this.

Coulon was originally subject to a “security check” level of vetting, which wouldn’t have permitted him to see documents above SECRET classification. However, a few days before that, the government also briefed that he was given access to what were described as “strap one” documents.

Much later, Coulson told the Leveson inquiry that he did indeed see highly classified documents and took part in meetings of the National Security Council at which they were discussed. No.10 Downing Street denied that Coulson took part in such meetings, or more specifically, that it could find any record of him so doing.

This article from July 2011 states, in essence, that both versions are true. Coulson was originally only subject to a security check, but was later subjected to developed vetting, following a decision after an attempted terrorist attack. This was still going on when he was sacked. The timetable for developed vetting points to a decision at the earliest in the middle of November 2010.

The “strap one” thing got lost in all this, until it turned up in one of Edward Snowden’s document dumps, in the header of a document that was both TOP SECRET and also COMINT, subject to special inter-allied procedures for the security of signals intelligence.

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