To err is human, but some mistakes come at an immeasurable cost when it comes to national security. An example of this is the thousands of U.S. Army emails that were sent “to Mali accounts” in Africa—all because of a single typo. Instead of typing “.MIL” into the recipient, some members of the U.S. military type “ML,” the country’s domain in Africa.
Luckily for the U.S. Army, no classified information was sent in those emails. The worst case was the sharing of the travel details of high-ranking officers — and those who have a general, are afraid. Receiving these emails is Johannes Zuurbier, a Dutch businessman (who is born in the Netherlands) hired by the Malian government to manage the “.ML” domain.
According to the businessman, only in January he received 117,000 emails that should have the domain “.MIL” inserted at its end. In addition to the officers’ travel itinerary, one case that draws attention is that of an email from an FBI agent who wanted to report on an action by the Turkish PKK group (read carefully) to break into Turkish Airlines offices in the United States.
Other sensitive information involves military IDs, photos of bases and inspections on navy ships.
Zuurbier’s contract ends soon and is risk for the United States
Although the businessman has been receiving these emails since 2013 (and warning the U.S. military), the risk of these erroneous shipments will be “magnified” from next Monday, when Zuurbier’s contract with the Malian government will be terminated.
Despite being a country far from the media spotlight, Mali’s receipt of these emails represents a big piece of geopolitics. The African country is aligned with Russia and has troops from the private security group Wagner, which recently engaged in an attempted coup against the Russian defense ministry — but still operates in Mali with Kremlin support.