600,000 personal MoD files on stolen computer.
PERSONAL details of 600,000 forces personnel and applicants are missing after an MoD laptop was stolen.
The computer, with bank, passport and other information, was taken from a Navy officer's car.
The latest data blunder is potentially the most serious as military personnel are targets for terrorism. A defence source said: "This is huge. The last thing you need is details of so many people in the forces or those interested in joining being available to criminals."
Police do not know if the car was deliberately targeted in the January 9 Birmingham theft. And the MoD refused to say whether the laptop was encrypted or needed a password for access.
Forces chiefs tried to keep the security breach under wraps to avoid alerting the crooks to the computer's importance. News leaked out as they alerted those affected - Navy, Marines and RAF staff and potential recruits.
The laptop held 3,500 bank details as well as NI and NHS numbers, driving licence records and GPs' addresses.
The MoD said it was treating the theft with the "utmost seriousness". But the British Armed Forces Federation, representing current and retired personnel, blasted the fiasco and demanded a probe. Federation co-founder Douglas Young said: "If the data was left unprotected... overnight in a vehicle, I think that speaks volumes."
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will make a statement to MPs on Monday. The theft comes after details of 25 million child benefit claimants were lost by HM Revenue and Customs in November.