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UK: Trump orders ‘review’ into Manchester bombing leaks

26th May 2017
UK: Trump orders ‘review’ into Manchester bombing leaks

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

 

LONDON (AA): U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday called for a “complete review” into how sensitive information concerning Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester ended up in American newspapers, straining defense and intelligence ties with the British government.

“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,” the U.S. leader — who is in Brussels for a NATO summit — said.

America’s top diplomat in London also condemned the recent leaking of secret information to U.S. media and said his government would take action to find those responsible.

Acting U.S. ambassador to London Lewis Lukens spoke to BBC Radio 4 on Thursday afternoon following a strong reaction from U.K. police when forensic photos from the scene of Monday’s Manchester suicide bombing were published by the New York Times.

“These leaks are terrible, and again let me just say in the strongest possible terms that we condemn them and we are determined to investigate and to bring appropriate action,” Lukens said.

The spat over the intelligence leak between the U.K. and U.S. deepened on Thursday with reports Britain’s security agencies have stopped sharing some information with their American counterparts.

Greater Manchester Police had been sharing findings with the U.K.’s national counter-terrorism unit before they were passed to the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand under an intelligence-sharing agreement called Five Eyes.

But according to a BBC report on Thursday morning, the flow of information from the U.K. to U.S came to a sudden end after intelligence on Monday’s bombing was leaked to American news outlets on more than one occasion and despite warnings from high-level U.K. officials.

“We have heard the message loud and clear from Her Majesty’s government and we agree with their concerns and we’re determined to take action,” Lukens said.

Lukens underlined that the intelligence partnership between the U.K. and U.S. “keeps both of our countries much safer” but it was “up to the U.K. ultimately to determine how we work together on this”.

British Prime Minister Theresa May described the U.S. link as “our deepest defense and security partnership that we have.”

“Of course, that partnership is built on trust. And part of that trust is knowing that intelligence can be shared confidently and I will be making clear to President Trump today that intelligence that is shared between law enforcement agencies must be shared securely,” May said in Brussels ahead of a NATO summit.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to London on Friday for his first official visit amid the unusual strain in British-American relations.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tillerson will meet U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and pay condolences for the May 22 terrorist attack.

“The Secretary will reaffirm America’s commitment to the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom and our solidarity in defeating terrorism in every part of the world,” she said in a statement.

Tillerson and Johnson will sign a book of condolences for Manchester victims and deliver public remarks to the media, Nauert said.

– Newspaper defends publication

Meanwhile, the New York Times defended its decision to publish the photographs.

“The images and information presented were neither graphic nor disrespectful of victims, and consistent with the common line of reporting on weapons used in horrific crimes,” the U.S. daily said.

“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,” the paper added.

U.S. journalists — apparently acting on leaks from U.S. officials — were able to publish fresh details of the probe into one of the worst terror attacks in the U.K. only hours after British Home Secretary Amber Rudd expressed frustration about the revelation of the main suspect’s identity.

The New York Times published eight photographs of what appeared to be evidence taken by British forensic teams after a suicide bomber detonated a device in the foyer area of Manchester Arena.

Monday’s blast killed at least 22 people. Eight suspects are currently in custody.

*Michael Hernandez contributed to this report from Washington

[Photo: People observe a minute’s silence for the victims of Manchester Arena terror attack at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, United Kingdom on May 25, 2017. Photographer: Muhabiri Behlül Çetinkaya/AA]

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