A major row has erupted over the US leaking UK intelligence on the Manchester suicide bombing after the The New York Times published pictures of the bomb parts.
British police and politicians criticised leaks of information connected to the Manchester investigation by their counterparts in the US as major strain was placed on the UK-US ‘special relationship’.
The Guardian and ITV News is reporting Theresa May is to raise the leaks with Donald Trump and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham told Newsnight he had raised the issue with the US ambassador to the UK. “It troubles me,” he said.
In a terse statement, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said the “unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence” to US media “undermines” investigations.
“We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world. These relationships enable us to collaborate and share privileged and sensitive information that allows us to defeat terrorism and protect the public at home and abroad.
“When that trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families. This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter terrorism investigation.”
And the Counter Terrorism Policing agency tweeted:
The New York Times published pictures the detonator and battery, as well shrapnel.
Details first published on the other side of the Atlantic included the initial death toll, that it was a suicide attack and, to the frustration of British authorities, the name of the bomber.
The latest US reports came just hours after UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd expressed fury at apparent United States government leaking.
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the minister said the British government will look at how much detail it shares with the US about ongoing terror attacks.
Rudd said it was “irritating” that information was obtained by US media outlets before it was released by British police. Asked by Today 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.”
And Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon told LBC radio it was “disappointing”. He said:
“This is a very fast moving investigation involving our security services, tracking down as rapidly as possible who the accomplices to this terrorist were.
“To do this you need to focus on getting to this network, if it is a larger network, that’s not helped by a premature release of details.”
British politicians raised fresh concerns following the New York Times, including Labour’s Yvette Cooper, a former Shadow Home Secretary.
Cooper, who chairs the parliamentary home affairs committee, told HuffPost UK:
“Co-operation with our allies on counter terrorism is crucial.
“So the idea that the US authorities could leak information they have been given without authorisation right in the middle of a live investigation where public safety is at risk is extremely concerning.
“The US needs to tackle this immediately for the sake of our joint security or it will prevent vital security cooperation in future.”
UK-based journalists suggested the UK Government would be furious.
Meanwhile, the Manchester Evening News pointedly said it was not publishing the pictures.
A US State Department official told HuffPost UK:
“The State Department does not discuss alleged leaks or matters of intelligence.
“The President pledged America’s full support to British law enforcement and intelligence officials working to apprehend those behind the Manchester Arena attack and to prevent further atrocities.”