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UK’s Johnson may have been target of espionage because phone number appeared online

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
(File photo)

Fears have been raised in the United Kingdom that Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have been subjected to espionage by foreign governments or criminal groups because his personal mobile phone number was available online for 15 years.

A gossip newsletter entity revealed on Thursday that Johnson’s phone number could be found at the bottom of an old press release issued in 2006, when the incumbent prime minister was a member of the parliament for Henley.

Although the number has reportedly been deactivated since Thursday night, the Labor leader, Keir Starmer, said that widespread access to the prime minister’s phone number had been a “serious situation” and posed a “security risk.”

Foreign leaders, businesspeople, lobbyists, and other figures from outside the government were able to contact Johnson directly on that number, and his conversations may have included sensitive and confidential information.

Peter Ricketts, who served as former Prime Minister David Cameron’s national security adviser from 2010-12, told BBC Radio 4, “One would be worried if a hostile state who had sophisticated capabilities had the mobile phone number itself.”

He added that such states and “other non-state actors like sophisticated criminal gangs” might have been eavesdropping on the PM’s communications.

Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service Simon Case has allegedly urged the prime minister to change the number.

However, Downing Street has refused to say whether Johnson will be changing the number.

The revelation was the latest in a series of cronyism and lobbying questions facing the Conservative Party, after allegations surfaced that Cameron had used his leverage and connections to lobby ministers and officials on behalf of his financier boss Lex Greensill.

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