UK shares data with US again after Manchester leaks

Intelligence withheld after American media published sensitive terror attack details

British prime minister has said she will be making clear to US president Donald Trump that intelligence sharing between the two nations, 'is built on trust' after information about the Manchester bombing was allegedly leaked. Video: Reuters

 

British police said on Thursday that they had resumed sharing information with US agencies after receiving “fresh assurances”, ending a suspension in the wake of leaks to US media about the Manchester suicide bombing.

“While we do not usually comment on information sharing arrangements ... having received fresh assurances, we are now working closely with our key partners around the world including all those in the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance,” said Mark Rowley, Britain’s lead officer for counter-terrorism policing.

The Five Eyes alliance is made up of Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Earlier on Thursday, British prime minister Theresa May spoke to US president Donald Trump to say intelligence shared between their two countries had to remain secure.

Before the meeting with Ms May, Mr Trump has said the US will investigate intelligence leaks that revealed sensitive information about the Manchester bombing.

Tensions are running high after a series of leaks in US media revealed details about the suicide bombing that killed 22 people at a pop concert in the city on Monday night. British police, who said the leaks amount to a breach of trust, had on Thursday suspended sharing information about the incident with the US.

“The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling. These leaks have been going on for a long time and my administration will get to the bottom of this,” Mr Trump at a summit of Nato leaders in Brussels. “There is no relationship we cherish more than the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. ”

Earlier, Ms May said on arrival in Brussels that she would be “making clear to President Trump today that the information shared with our law-enforcement agencies must remain secure”.

The decision to stop sharing police information with US agencies was an extraordinary step as Britain sees the United States as its closest ally on security and intelligence. “This is until such time as we have assurances that no further unauthorised disclosures will occur,” said the counter-terrorism source.

The name of the bomber, Salman Abedi (22), the Manchester-born son of Libyan descent, was reported by American television networks CBS and NBC on Tuesday before the UK authorities had agreed to release his identity.

On Wednesday, photographs purportedly showing bloodstained fragments of Abedi’s homemade bomb, including what seemed to be the remains of the device’s battery and detonator, appeared in the New York Times, hours after home secretary Amber Rudd asked US authorities not to leak material.

The images appeared to be taken as part of the forensic investigation of the scene of the bombing. The photographs also showed nuts and screws for shrapnel and a blue and black Karrimor rucksack that appeared to be carried by Abedi.

The newspaper’s report carried detailed information about the device and how it appears the young Manchester man might have carried out the attack, including preliminary findings by the British authorities that the small detonator switch was found in the bomber’s left hand.

Security relationship

The information had been shared between the countries as part of the long-standing security relationship between the transatlantic allies and cooperation between their intelligence services. The leaks are thought to have come from US law enforcement rather than from the White House.

Still, the escalating dispute over the release of information has soured relations between the countries ahead of Ms May’s meeting with Mr Trump at the Nato summit in Brussels.

The UK leader was expected to raise concerns with Mr Trump about the leaks and will push for Nato to join the coalition fighting Islamic State extremists in the Middle East.

Hours before the photos of the bomb fragments appeared in the US media, Ms Rudd had scolded the US security services saying that she was “irritated” by the releasing of the name of the bomber before it was made public in the UK.

“I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again,” she said.

Britain’s National Police Chiefs’ Council warned on Wednesday that the “underauthorised disclosure” of potential evidence was a breach of trust that had potentially undermined a “major counter-terrorism investigation.”

Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham criticised the US leaks, tweeting that he had complained to the acting US ambassador and “was assured they would stop.”

“They haven’t. Arrogant, wrong and disrespectful to GM [Greater Manchester],” he wrote.

Mr Burnham told BBC’s Newsnight that police had decided to take a “cautious approach” to releasing information “and yet the first reports were coming seemingly out of the United States”.

Manchester police continued making arrests in the investigation with the number of detentions rising to eight in the wake of the UK’s worst terrorist attack since the July 2005 bombings in London.

 

Additional reporting agencies