Manchester bombing: Trump orders leak investigation as Brits halt intelligence sharing
Thursday - 25/05/2017 12:39
British officials are frustrated over the U.S. officials leaking to the media investigative details into the Manchester bombing.
MANCHESTER, England — President Trump ordered the Justice Department to probe alleged information leaks by U.S. officials regarding the deadly concert bombing investigation here after British authorities announced Thursday they would stop sharing intelligence due to leaks of confidential and sensitive details about the case.
The clash over leaks came as police here announced "significant" arrests and said searches conducted in the area have turned up crucial evidence in the probe. Police said eight men remain in custody following the attack Monday night.
Leaks from U.S. government agencies have been occurring for a long time and are "deeply troubling," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. He said they pose a "grave threat" to 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," Trump said. "There is no relationship we cherish more than the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom."
The British decision to halt sharing information with counterparts in the United States comes after a series of revelations about the case that first surfaced in U.S. media including USA TODAY, such as the name of the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi.
Late Wednesday, TheNew York Times publishedimages of what appeared to be debris from the device used to kill 22 people at Manchester Arena following a performance by U.S. pop star Ariana Grande.
Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said the leaks had upset victims of the attack and their families.
"Last night family-liaison officers shared with those families the fact that intelligence had been leaked and published in The New York Times," he said. "It is absolutely understandable the distress and upset this has caused those families, who are already suffering as everybody can imagine."
The Times defended its decision to publish the photos and a map showing where the bomb was detonated and where the victims were found, saying its work was "neither graphic nor disrespectful of victims."
Britain's National Counter Terrorism Policing agency said in a statement that its relationships with security partners around the world "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 unauthorized disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter terrorism investigation."
British Prime Minister Theresa May said she raise the issue with President Trump at a NATO meeting in Brussels later Thursday.
"I will be making it clear to President Trump that intelligence shared between law enforcement agencies must remain secure," May said.
The BBC first reported that a decision was made to temporarily freeze disclosing details about the case with U.S. authorities. It said that there was "disbelief and astonishment across the British government" about the leaks to U.S. media, which they felt could compromise the investigation.
Authorities identified Abedi, 22, who was born and raised in Manchester and has Libyan parents, as the suicide bomber in Monday night's attack. Authorities indicated he may have been part of a terrorist network intent on carrying out further deadly assaults in and around the Manchester area. He died at the scene.
Queen Elizabeth II visited the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital on Thursday, meeting with staff and some of the attack victims. She toured the wards and spoke to medical staff. The hospital said 12 children were still being treated there.
"Her Majesty meets Evie Mills, aged 14, from Harrogate, her mum, Karen and dad, Craig at the hospital in Manchester," the Royal Family tweeted with a photo. And later: "Whilst at the hospital in Manchester, The Queen spoke to 12-year-old Amy Barlow, from Rawtenstall, and her mum, Kathy."
Police on Thursday continued to raid locations across the city, convinced the bombmaker could still be on the loose. Security services have warned the public that more attacks could be imminent.
About 1,000 soldiers were deployed Wednesday around the country as the terrorist threat level was raised to "critical" in the wake of the bombing.
Multiple bomb scares occurred across Manchester on Thursday, including in the suburb of Trafford where the army was called to an area near a college.
The search for accomplices has also extended to Libya. Abedi's younger brother and father were detained in Tripoli on Wednesday, and police arrested his older brother in Manchester earlier in the week.
Manchester and the rest of the U.K. held a minute of silence at 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) Thursday in remembrance of those who lost their lives or were affected by the attack.
Onyanga-Omara reported from London, Bacon from McLean, Va.