A police officer stands on duty outside a residential property in Manchester, on May 25, 2017, as their investigations continue into the May 22 terror attack at the Manchester Arena. (Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON — British indignation over alleged American leaks of investigative material related to the Manchester bombing will likely create a charged environment Thursday when the British Prime Minister Theresa May meets with President Trump in Brussels.
Leaks from the ongoing investigation — including publishing crime scene photos in the New York Times and the naming of the suspected bomber by U.S. broadcasters — have provoked ire from British officials.
The breaches could undermine the extremely close intelligence sharing between the U.S. and Britain.
According to a report in the BBC, British police investigating the Manchester attack have now decided to withhold information from the U.S. in the wake of the leaks.
“Greater Manchester Police hopes to resume normal intelligence relationships — a two-way flow of information — soon but is currently “furious,” said the British broadcaster.
British police chiefs across the country have also criticized the leaks in a highly unusual statement.
“We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world,” said the National Police Chiefs’ Council in a statement. “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 counterterrorism investigation.”
On Wednesday morning, Amber Rudd, Britain’s Home Secretary, said that the leaks in the U.S. media were “irritating” and should not happen again.
Hours later, the New York Times published a series of detailed forensic photographs from the crime scene that showed, among other things, fragments of a blue backpack that may have contained the assailant’s bomb. They also included a graphic of the area where the bomb exploded, pinpointing where the victims’ bodies were found.
The growing frustration of British officials comes as allies are already smarting from Trump’s disclosure of classified information about an Islamic State threat to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said that he complained to the acting U.S. ambassador Lewis Lukens that the leaks were undermining the investigation.
“These leaks are completely unacceptable, and must stop immediately,” he said. “This behavior is arrogant and is undermining the investigation into the horrific attack on the city of Manchester.”