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Trump threatens prosecution over Manchester attack leaks

The New York Times published details of the bomb used in the Manchester attack last night.

Updated 5.17pm

“FURIOUS” BRITISH OFFICIALS scolded their US counterparts yesterday following repeated leaks of shared material about the investigation into the deadly Manchester terror attack.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump described the leaks as “deeply troubling” and threatened to prosecute those responsible, after a warning by British Prime Minister Theresa May to keep shared data “secure”.

In a statement issued by the White House, as Trump joined May at a meeting of NATO allies, he said:

There is no relationship we cherish more than the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.

The British government earlier expressed its anger at the release in US media of details from the investigation into Monday’s concert attack, including photographs of parts of the bomb which left 22 people dead, including children.

Arriving in Brussels, May warned that intelligence sharing with the United States was “built on trust”.

“Part of that is knowing intelligence can be shared confidently and I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence shared with law enforcement agencies must be secure,” she told reporters.

Moment’s silence

Visiting the military alliance’s new $1.2 billion headquarters with fellow leaders later, Trump led a moment’s silence for the victims of what he described as “a barbaric and vicious attack on our civilisation”.

In his statement, Trump — who was already struggling domestically to stem a tide of damaging leaks from law enforcement agencies — said the information coming out in the US media was “deeply troubling”.

“These leaks have been going on for a long time and my administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security,” he said.

I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

In his NATO speech, he said: “Prime Minister May, all of the nations here today grieve with you and stand with you.”

“The recent attack on Manchester in the UK demonstrates the depths of the evil we face with terrorism,” he said.

“Innocent little girls and so many others were horribly murdered and badly injured while attending a concert — beautiful lives with so much great potential, torn from their families for ever and ever.”

Scooped

Earlier today, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd roasted the US Department of Homeland Security and other intelligence branches after the bomber’s identity and details of the probe leaked out to US media before British officials felt ready to disclose them.

But shortly after the interior minister complained, The New York Times newspaper again scooped British authorities and other media by publishing photographs from the scene of remnants of the bomb.

The pictures were apparently taken by police investigators and, according to British government ministry sources, leaked by US counterparts they had been shared with.

Today, the BBC reported that Britain had stopped sharing information with US law enforcement “because of a series of leaks thought to have come from the American intelligence community”.

“We are furious. This is completely unacceptable,” a government ministry source said.

These images leaked from inside the US system will be distressing for victims, their families and the wider public.

“The issue is being raised at every relevant level by the British authorities with their US counterparts.”

The row – which goes to the heart of the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the two allies – provided an awkward backdrop to Prime Minister Theresa May’s meeting with US President Donald Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels today.

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham also expressed his displeasure with the leaks.

He said: “It troubles me. On Monday evening when the reports were first coming through to me, I agreed with the chief constable and others we would take a cautious approach to putting public information out because we wouldn’t want to get anything wrong or compromise the police investigation.

And yet the first reports were coming seemingly out of the United States. So that is concerning, because obviously you want international cooperation when it comes to sharing of information because events like this can have that broader dimension. But it worries me greatly and in fact I made known my concerns about it to the US ambassador.

‘It is irritating’

Rudd revealed the frustration going on inside the probe to find the suspected network behind bomber Salman Abedi.

“The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity… the element of surprise,” Rudd told BBC radio.

So it is irritating if it gets released from other sources and I have been very clear with our friends that should not happen again.

Asked if the US authorities had compromised the investigation, she said: “I wouldn’t go that far.

“But I can say that they are perfectly clear about the situation and that it shouldn’t happen again.”

But the National Counter Terrorism Policing body said the investigation was being “undermined”.

Manchester Arena incident Source: Danny Lawson PA Wire/PA Images

“We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world,” a spokesman said.

“These relationships enable us to collaborate and share privileged and sensitive information.

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.”

Bomber identity leaked

Twenty-two people, including several children, were killed on Monday when a bomb went off at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande in Manchester.

British-born Abedi was identified as the suspected suicide bomber responsible. His name first surfaced in US media reports Tuesday, based on briefings given to US officials by their counterparts in London.

Earlier, US media, also quoting US security sources, identified the assailant as a suicide bomber, well before British authorities confirmed that publicly.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan confirmed that Rudd, who spoke with DHS Secretary John Kelly by phone yesterday, had raised the matter.

“They communicated to DHS as well as other US government agencies their concern over leaks about their investigation into the incident in Manchester – information that’s gotten into the press and public through US sources when the UK was leading the investigation and wants to protect the information,” Lapan said.

They’ve asked all of us to better protect the information that we have so as not to impede their investigation. We’ll do whatever we can to honour that.

DHS and intelligence agencies contacted by AFP would not comment on whether they were the ones who leaked the information.

With reporting from Sean Murray

© – AFP 2017

Read: British police arrest six men and one woman over Manchester bombing

Read: Ten more victims of Monday’s attack in Manchester have now been named

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