Speaking in Belgium during the NATO summit meeting, President Trump on Thursday denounced leaks about Britain’s investigation into the deadly terrorist bombing in Manchester. He said that leaks of photos taken by British investigators is “deeply troubling” and asked the Justice Department and other agencies to launch a full investigation. British officials are reportedly incensed about the leaks, apparently by US sources, and the naming of the suspected suicide bomber to American media outlets, including the New York Times.
Because of the leaks, British police retaliated by withholding information from US government agencies that they say are responsible for the leaks. However, after receiving “fresh assurances” from US officials, cooperation resumed on Thursday evening. The blast on Monday night killed 22, including children, and injured approximately 100 in one of the worst terrorist incidents in British history. Fearing further attacks, British authorities raised the threat level to its highest point -- critical -- and have deployed troops to bolster the response by police in Manchester, London, and elsewhere in the UK.
Some critics of the leak have pointed out that if the name of the terrorist, Salman Ramadan Abedi, had been withheld longer, authorities would have been able to pin down his collaborators, who presumably have now fled. However, police in Manchester have arrested one of Abedi’s brothers, while security forces in Libya have detained Abedi’s father and other brother.
Before meeting President Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would “make clear” to him that “intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.” A spokesman for the prime minister later said that May told Trump that while information sharing between their two countries is important, it should be kept safe.
Responding to British indignation, Trump issued a statement on Thursday and vowed to “get to the bottom of this.”
“The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security. 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,” he said.
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said in a statement that the leaks published by the New York Times caused “much distress for families that are already suffering terribly with their loss.” In an extraordinary statement, the National Police Chiefs’ Council of the UK declared that “unauthorized disclosure of potential evidence” in the midst of counter-terrorism operations “undermines our investigations.” Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burham complained to acting US Ambassador Lukens that the leaks were undermining the investigation.
Britain and the United States are members of the “Five Eyes” group, which shares highly-classified material. The other members of the Five Eyes are Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Here follow graphic forensic photos from the crime scene:
Blood found on the floor at the Manchester Arena and a screw that formed part of the deadly shrapnel.
Remnants of the backpack used by the suicide bomber.
Remnants of the suicide bomber's backpack.
Remnants of a 12-volt battery believed to have been used in the bomb.