May Talks to Trump on Intelligence Leaks as U.S. Vows ProbeBy , , and
Police say leaking of investigation is breach of trust
May approaches Trump at NATO meeting to discuss lapses
President Donald Trump said the U.S. will investigate intelligence leaks about the Manchester bombing as Prime Minister Theresa May complained to him about the lapses.
May quietly approached Trump during a family photo at the NATO summit to say the U.K. was unhappy about leaks in U.S. media revealing details about the attack that killed 22 people at a pop concert. British police, who said the leaks amount to a breach of trust, on Thursday evening resumed intelligence-sharing about the attack with U.S. partners after an earlier suspension.
“The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling. These leaks have been going on for a long time and my administration will get to the bottom of this,” Trump said. “There is no relationship we cherish more than the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.”
The episode is testing one of the world’s closest intelligence-sharing partnerships and could have wider implications for collaboration between the U.S. and its allies. The spat comes after Trump himself disclosed sensitive information about Islamic State in a meeting with Russian officials on May 10.
May told Trump that while the relationship between the two allies was hugely valuable, shared intelligence must be kept secure, according to a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Leaks on Trump
May’s complaint is likely to find a receptive audience with Trump, who has sought to deflect attention from multiple U.S. investigations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 by citing intelligence leaks to media outlets.
Those leaks have resulted in politically damaging stories about the Trump administration, including the revelation that his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.
Trump railed against “so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington” in a tweet in February after Flynn was forced to resign and it’s a subject he’s returned to repeatedly.
A senior White House official earlier said that the leaks only underscored the president’s assertion that U.S. authorities should investigate the intelligence community to see who is doing the leaking. The official pointed out that the BBC report specified that the U.S. law officials were the source of the leaks -- not the White House.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement Thursday saying the Justice Department had already begun taking “appropriate steps to address these rampant leaks that undermine our national security.”
The U.K. spat started when U.S. media revealed details on Tuesday including the name of the Manchester suicide bomber, hours before U.K. authorities made them public, prompting a public rebuke from Home Secretary Amber Rudd. The next day, the New York Times published photos of the crime scene, provoking criticism from U.K. police who said it was potential evidence in the investigation.
In a break from normal practice to not comment on intelligence sharing, the top U.K. counter-terrorism officer, Mark Rowley, released a statement Thursday saying, “We want to emphasize that, having received fresh assurances, we are now working closely with our key partners around the world.”
The Times story didn’t cite a source, and the U.K. government didn’t comment on the piece. The newspaper defended its decision to publish on Thursday.
Trump’s critics also slammed the disclosure of evidence in the Manchester bombing case. Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said controlling information in the middle of an investigation is critical.
“If the reports are accurate that the United States leaked information that was shared by the United Kingdom in relation to the Manchester bombing suspect, the British government has every right to be furious,” Schiff said in an emailed statement.
The U.S. relies on a global network of intelligence-sharing partnerships, most notably the “Five Eyes” agreement with Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are key intelligence providers in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to sharing intelligence with the U.S., telling reporters in Brussels that “the track record has shown that collaboration and cooperation between allies, friends and partners has saved lives and keeps all of our citizens safe.”
— With assistance by Charlotte Ryan, Robert Hutton, Svenja O'Donnell, Alex Morales, Kevin Cirilli, and Josh Wingrove