May to confront Trump on Manchester leaks as UK authorities reportedly start withholding info from US

Theresa May Donald Trump
Theresa May Donald Trump

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

  • Classified police photos from the scene of the terrorist attack in Manchester, England, leaked to The New York Times.

  • A UK security official says lives are being put at risk by leaks.

  • The Manchester police say leaks have cause "distress and upset" to families of victims.

  • Prime Minister Theresa May to confront President Donald Trump in person later Thursday.

  • British investigators halt cooperation with the US after ongoing leaks.

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May plans to confront President Donald Trump later Thursday after highly sensitive police photos of the ongoing investigation into the Manchester, England, terrorist attack were leaked to the US media.

British security officials reacted with fury to the leaks, with one telling the Financial Times that lives were being put at risk. The BBC also reported on Thursday morning that the police in Manchester had stopped sharing information about the investigation with the US because of the ongoing leaks.

Images of the remnants of the backpack used in the bomb attack, evidence of shrapnel, and a possible detonator were all published by The New York Times along with a layout of where those killed by the blast were standing.

The prime minister on Thursday said she would "make clear" to Trump at a NATO meeting later on Thursday that the leaks must stop.

"I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence which is shared between our law-enforcement agencies must remain secure," she said in a statement.

The Manchester police chief, Ian Hopkins, said the leaks had caused "distress and upset" to the 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."

Information leaked to The New York Times included:

  • Photos of the backpack used in the attack.

  • Details on how the bomb may have been constructed and detonated.

  • Police images of metal nuts and screws apparently propelled by the blast.

  • How the bomb was powered.

  • Layout of the blast area and locations of the victims and the bomber's torso.

There have been a series of other leaks from US officials to the media over recent days about the attack. As reported by Business Insider on Tuesday, the bomber's name, the body count, and the method of detonation all emerged in the US long before being publicly confirmed by the British authorities.

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British police chiefs have said the ongoing leaks were "undermining" their investigations and the UK's relations with US security agencies as well as the confidence of victims.

"We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement, and security partners around the world," a National Counter Terrorism Policing representative said Wednesday night.

"Those 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 those 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 counterterror investigation."

Burnham: 'It's not acceptable'

Mayor Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester described the ongoing leaks as "arrogant, wrong, and disrespectful," and he told Newsnight that he had complained to the US ambassador and been assured they would stop.

He added: "It worries me greatly ... It's not acceptable to me. Here is a live investigation taking place and we cannot have information put into the public domain that is not in the direct control of the British police and security services."

The leaks continued to emerge Wednesday despite public complaints from British Home Secretary Amber Rudd. She told the "Today" programme on Wednesday that she had insisted to her US counterparts that the leaks must stop.

"The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect the operational integrity, the element of surprise, so it is irritating if it gets released from other sources, and I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again," she said.

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