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May tells Trump to keep intelligence secure after US agencies leak info

British police have stooped sharing information with US security agencies after leaks on the Manchester terror attack sparked fears that the investigation may have been undermined.

world Updated: May 25, 2017 22:01 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Manchester terror attack,Salman Abedi,US intelligence leaks
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street in London.(Reuters)

Intelligence ties between Britain and the United States have become strained following leaks about investigations into the Manchester Arena blast, prompting Prime Minister Theresa May to take up the issue with President Donald Trump on Thursday.

The Greater Manchester police has stopped sharing information with US officials, while bureaucrats across Britain’s security establishment reacted with fury at US leaks to New York Times that were reproduced widely online in print in Britain.

May confirmed that she would “make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure”, a day after home secretary Amber Rudd publicly rebuked US officials for naming Salman Abedi as the suspected suicide bomber hours before the police did.

A Whitehall source described a second US leak comprising images of shrapnel and remains of the suspected suicide bomber’s clothing as “on another level”, and told the BBC it had caused “disbelief and astonishment” across the British government.

A spokesperson for national counter terrorism policing said: “We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world. These relationships enable us to collaborate and share privileged and sensitive information that allows us to defeat terrorism and protect the public at home and abroad.

“When that trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families. This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter terrorism investigation.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick (R) meets soldiers and police officers on deployment at the Palace of Westminster in London on Wednesday. (AFP)

A senior Whitehall source told The Guardian: “These images from inside the American system are clearly distressing to victims, their families and other members of the public. Protests have been lodged at every relevant level between the British authorities and our US counterparts. They are in no doubt about our huge strength of feeling on this issue. It is unacceptable.”

Before leaving for Brussels, where May was scheduled to meet Trump at a Nato summit, the British PM chaired another meeting of the government’s emergency committee, Cobra, and later said the terror threat level would remain at “critical” for the foreseeable future.

“The police have confirmed that eight suspects remain in custody and that progress is being made in the case but the threat level, as assessed by the independent joint terrorism analysis centre, will remain at critical and the public should remain vigilant,” she said.

Police and army units continued counter-terrorism operations in Manchester and beyond, as Queen Elizabeth visited the traumatised city coming to terms with the terror attack that claimed 22 lives.

On Friday, May will attend a G7 summit in Italy, where she said she would “lead a discussion on counter-terrorism and on how we will work together to prevent the plotting of terrorist attacks online and to stop the spread of hateful extremist ideology on social media”.

“G7 and Nato will enable us to work more closely together as we work to defeat the evil of terrorism,” she added.

First Published: May 25, 2017 13:46 IST