Theresa May has said she will make clear to Donald Trump that intelligence shared between America and Britain “must remain secure” after Greater Manchester Police stopped passing details to their US colleagues.
Police put in the temporary halt a day after Amber Rudd on Wednesday said the British government will look at how much it shares with the United States about ongoing terror attacks.
The Home Secretary’s comment came after the name of bomber Salman Abedi was leaked to the US media within hours of the attack, which resulted in the deaths of 22 people. A further 64 were injured.
Since then pictures of the debris - which appear to show bloodstained fragments from the bomb and the backpack used to conceal it - were subsequently leaked to the New York Times.
Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott became the first major British politician to suggest that it was time to review all of the UK’s intelligence sharing with the US.
Lord Prescott told BBC’s Daily Politics: “It’s so horrific given the circumstances. There has got to be a complete review.
“It’s opened the argument about what is the value of sharing the intelligence? The question now is whether you can trust the Americans to share intelligence.
“It’s dramatic, it’s a game-changer.”
Prescott added that Theresa May wanted to expand intelligence sharing but the leaks had called into question whether even the current set-up was appropriate.
May is to raise concerns with Donald Trump at a Nato meeting in Brussels later today.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) hopes to resume normal intelligence relationships - a two-way flow of information - soon but is currently “furious”, the BBC reported on Thursday.
Greater Manchester chief constable Ian Hopkins said today “distress and upset” had been caused to families of the Manchester attack victims by the leak to the US media of evidence.
Downing Street was not behind the decision, a No 10 source told the Guardian, saying it was important police were allowed to take independent decisions.
GMP is leading the operation on the ground but passes on information to National Counter-Terrorism, which in turn goes to the government. Due to the Five Eyes intelligence sharing agreement, it is then passed on to the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
A Whitehall source described the second US leak as “on another level” to the BBC, and said it had caused “disbelief and astonishment” across the British government.
The broadcaster said UK Officials believe that US law law enforcement rather than the White House is behind the leaks.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham told BBC Newsnight that the leaks concerned him “greatly”, and that he had raised them with the US ambassador.
Speaking on the Today Programme on Thursday, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, called the leaking of information in the US a “grievous breach”, but said the same thing had occurred after the July 7, 2005 London terror attack that claimed 52 lives.
Lord Blair said: “It reminds me exactly of what happened after 7/7 when the United States published a complete picture of the way the bomb in 7/7 had been made up.”
He added that it was a “different world in which the US operate, in the sense of how they publish things”.
Lord Blair said he completely agreed with the BBC’s security correspondent, Frank Gardner - who was also on the programme - in that the leaks was “a very serious grievous breach”, but added: “I’m afraid, it is the same as before.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council told The Telegraph that the leaking of crime scene photos “undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families”.
Rudd said Wednesday that it was “irritating” that information, including the name of the attacker, Salman Abedi, was obtained by US media outlets before it was released by British police.
Asked by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if she would “look at” what the UK tells the US in future, she said: “Yes, quite frankly.
“The British police have been very clear they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise.
“So it is irritating if it gets released from other sources and I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again.”