Theresa May is expected to raise UK concerns about the leaking of intelligence on the Manchester bomb attack to the US press when she meets Donald Trump on Thursday. The disclosure of material provided by Britain sparked fury in Whitehall and prompted an unusual rebuke from UK police who warned that a breach of trust of this sort “undermines” investigations.
UK Government ministers voiced their anger in calls to their US counterparts on Wednesday evening, after the publication in the New York Times (NYT) of scenes-of-crime photographs showing bloodstained fragments of Salman Abedi’s bomb. The pictures appeared a day after the bomber’s name was briefed to the US media against the wishes of Greater Manchester Police, hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd revealed she had told US authorities not to leak material about the atrocity.
In a statement released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, a spokesman for National Counter Terrorism Policing said: “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.”
The disclosure is regarded as “completely unacceptable” by Britain, because of the distress it may cause families of those killed or injured and because of the risk it could complicate investigations. The row – which goes to the heart of the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the transatlantic allies – provides an awkward backdrop to the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Trump at the Nato summit in Brussels.