Trump Pledges to Investigate Leaks After UK Withholds Intel
Angered by leaks of sensitive information to the American media, British officials have stopped sharing information related to the Manchester Arena bombing with the United States.
President Donald Trump released a statement Thursday pledging to investigate leaks coming from U.S. government agencies, which he called “deeply troubling,” according to the Associated Press.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will confront Trump about the leaks during meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels this week.
“TRUST IS BREACHED”
On Tuesday, U.S. television networks NBC and CBS published the name of suspected bomber 22-year-old Salman Abedi, citing U.S. officials. The next day, The New York Times published photos of crime scene evidence.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said the photos caused “much distress for families that are already suffering terribly with their loss.”
A spokesman for Britain’s National Counter Terrorism Policing unit released a statement condemning the leaks.
“When the trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses, and their family,” the statement said. “This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorized disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter-terrorism investigation.”
A British official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, told the AP that Manchester police will cease sharing information with the U.S. until they are guaranteed that no more information will be leaked.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd called the leaks “irritating” in an interview with BBC Radio.
“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,” she said. “It is irritating if it gets released from other sources, and I have been very clear with our friends that should not happen again.”
THE MEDIA RESPONDS
The New York Times released a statement defending its decision to publish the photos, saying that it falls in line with their standards of reporting on terrorist acts.
“Our mission is to cover news and inform our readers,” the statement reads. “We have strict guidelines on how and in what ways we cover sensitive stories. Our coverage of Monday’s horrific attack has been both comprehensive and responsible.”
A FRIENDSHIP AT RISK?
The cessation of information-sharing about this attack is significant, but likely won’t be a permanent wedge between the U.S. and the U.K.
The Five Eyes intelligence sharing agreement, which originated in the 1940s, binds the U.S. and the U.K. with other English-speaking democracies–namely, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The intel-sharing alliance has survived leaks for decades, and experts have said it remains strong even post-Edward Snowden.
So far, the Manchester Arena bombing is the only topic where information is being withheld from U.S. officials. All other intelligence sharing will continue, according to the BBC. Furthermore, the decision to stop sharing information came directly from the Greater Manchester Police, not from Downing Street. The BBC reported that the department is “furious,” but hopes to return to the normal two-way sharing procedures soon.
Eyes are now on Trump–whose administration has been under fire for a stream of leaks to the media and to foreign officials–to, as Trump says, “get to the bottom” of the situation. If his proposed investigation and prosecution of leakers goes well and plugs the holes, the relationship between the U.S. and one of its closest allies likely won’t face irreparable damage.