British police suspend intelligence sharing with US on Manchester bombing

Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 08:15

British police have stopped sharing intelligence on the Manchester Arena attack with the United States after a series of leaks to the press that they say risked “undermining” the ongoing counter-terrorism investigation.

British police said Thursday that such recklessness with sensitive information has jeopardised the mutual trust that underpins security cooperation between foreign partners.

“When that trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families,” said a National Counter Terrorism Policing spokesperson.

“This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter terrorism investigation.”

Twenty-two people were killed Monday night when a suicide-bomber targeted Manchester Arena shortly after a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande. 

Forensic evidence gathered at the scene by British police was published by The New York Times on Wednesday, including detailed descriptions and photos of the remains of the bomb, a detonator and a shredded backpack possibly used by the bomber.

Following a series of unauthorised disclosures to US media earlier in the week, Britain believes US officials were also responsible for leaking the crime scene photos to the press.

The decision to stop sharing information with US authorities was made by the Greater Manchester police and not the prime minister’s office, a Downing Street spokesman told the Guardian, adding that officers have a certain degree of latitude and calling it an “operational matter”.

One former senior intelligence official described the move in a BBC 4 interview on Thursday as an “unprecedented halt in intelligence-sharing”. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the leaks when she meets with US President Donald Trump at a NATO summit in Brussels later on Thursday. May said she would underscore that any shared intelligence "must remain secure".