Britain slams US leaks about Manchester terror investigation, including identity of attacker
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd criticised US officials for leaking details about Monday’s terrorist attack in Manchester, warning Britain’s ally that it should not happen again.
The suicide bombing after a pop concert in Manchester killed 22 people including children. Several details, including the identity of the attacker, appeared on US media outlets before British security forces were ready to release the information.
“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, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources,” Rudd told BBC Radio on Wednesday, when asked about US leaks. “I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again.”
It is rare for the UK government to publicly criticise the US and in such blunt terms. The rebuke raises the risk that key allies could become more reluctant to share vital security information with the world’s superpower.
In a move likely to further enrage British officials, the New York Times on Wednesday printed crime scene photos from the attack, as well as precise details about the bomb and which hand the bomber used to detonate it. The pictures, which contain bloodstains, show the bag used to carry the bomb as well as some of the shrapnel that was packed around the explosive. The Times didn’t say where it got the information, which it said was gathered by British authorities.
Rudd’s department had no comment on the Times article, saying only that it was aware of it.
The details included in the piece wouldn’t usually be released in Britain until court proceedings, either a trial or an inquest, partly because of contempt of court laws that are designed to stop potential jurors from seeing partial evidence. British police are hunting other members of the bomber’s network and warning that another attack is imminent. Five people have been arrested in the UK and the bomber’s father and brother were held in Tripoli.
The Washington Post reported last week that President Donald Trump had shared with Russia sensitive information from a US intelligence partner about an Islamic State plot. On Monday, Trump hinted Israel may have been the source of that data.
The bomber’s name, Salman Abedi, was first revealed on Tuesday by CBS in the US, prompting UK police to put out a statement saying speculation was “unhelpful and potentially damaging” to the investigation. It was only much later in the day that the UK confirmed his identity.
Before the Manchester attacks, Prime Minister Theresa May had said that Britain would continue to share intelligence with the U.S. and that she had confidence in the relationship between the two countries.