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US promises to stop the 'terrible' intelligence leaks about the Manchester bomb attack after angry British protests

The Independent logo The Independent 25/05/2017 Rob Merrick

© Provided by Independent Print Limited The United States has promised to stop the “terrible” leaks of intelligence information about the Manchester bomb attack, after angry British protests.

The acting American ambassador to the UK said his country had “heard the message loud and clear”, after confidential details of the investigation appeared in the US media.

There was astonishment and fury among British ministers and officials after TheNew York Times published crime scene photos of the attack apparently passed to it by US intelligence sources.

Greater Manchester Police revealed today that it had stopped sharing intelligence relating to the Manchester Arena attack with US government agencies, as a result.

And Theresa May, speaking from Downing Street, said: “I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”

Lewis Lukens, acting US ambassador to the United Kingdom. © MATT DUNHAM/AFP/Getty Images Lewis Lukens, acting US ambassador to the United Kingdom. Lewis Lukens, the acting US ambassador, told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme that the US was “determined” to identify and stop the leaks of information.

“At all levels of government we have heard the message loud and clear from Her Majesty's Government and we agree with their concerns and we're determined to take action,” he said.

“These leaks are terrible and, again let me just say in the strongest possible terms, that we condemn them and we are determined to investigate and to bring appropriate action.

“We have had communications at the highest level of our government...we are determined to identify these leaks and to stop them."

Mr Lukens said intelligence co-operation across the Atlantic kept both countries safer, but he recognised it was “up to the United Kingdom ultimately to determine how we work together on this”.

People react as they stop to observe a minute's silence in St Ann's Square in Manchester, northwest England, on May 25, 2017. © OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images People react as they stop to observe a minute's silence in St Ann's Square in Manchester, northwest England, on May 25, 2017. Many crucial details about the Manchester Arena attack have appeared in the US media – including on the NBC and CBS networks – which British police had not released to the UK media.

They include initial death tolls, the fact the attack appeared to be a suicide bombing and the name of the attacker, apparently released by US intelligence sources.

The New York Times article included pictures of the scene of the attack, including the remains of a backpack, screws and nuts, and the remnants of a device held by the bomber.

The Prime Minister was poised to raise the controversy with the US President when she met him at the Nato summit in Brussels.

Meanwhile, the National Counter Terrorism Policing warned that such a breach of trust “undermines” investigations such as the Manchester probe.

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

The episode comes just a week after US president Donald Trump defended his right to leak classified intelligence to other countries' leaders. Mr Trump has also criticised leaking from the US intelligence establishment.

But Lord Blair, former chief of the Metropolitan Police, said the “grievous” breach reminded him of the behaviour of US intelligence after the 2005 London bombings.

“I’m afraid it just reminds me exactly of what happened after 7/7 when the US published a complete picture of the way the bombs in 7/7 had been made up and we had the same protests,” he said.

“It’s a different world in which the US operates in the sense of how they publish things. This is a very grievous breach but I’m afraid it’s the same as before.”

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