Why is the Manchester attack intelligence leak significant? And what is being done about it?

Why is the Manchester attack intelligence leak significant? And what is being done about it?

Media from the United States have leaked intelligence being used in the UK investigation into the Manchester bomb attack.

The attack claimed the lives of 22 people, including children, at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday night – and counter-terrorism officers say the leak “undermines” their investigation into the terror attack.

Ambulance in Manchester
At least 59 people were injured in the attack (Peter Byrne/PA)

What was leaked?

Photographs apparently showing bloodstained fragments from the bomb used in Monday’s attack, first appearing in the New York Times (NYT).

The new pictures show torn scraps from a blue rucksack as well as screws and nuts used as shrapnel and a metal item which the newspaper suggests could have been part of the bomb’s detonator.

A forensic officer
Forensic officers studied the scene after the attack (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

The nature of the photographs – one of which includes a ruler placed alongside the detonator – left no doubt that they were taken as part of the forensic investigation of the scene, and were not snapshots taken by members of the public.

The paper also published a map showing the location of the victims of the bombing, positioned in a circle around the site of the explosion in the arena foyer.

Why does it matter?

The images appeared in the NYT just hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd issued a plea to US authorities not to leak material about the attack.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham
Amber Rudd and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham both raised concerns (Danny Lawson/PA)

The disclosure is regarded as “completely unacceptable” by Britain, both because of the distress it may cause families of those killed or injured and because of the risk it could complicate ongoing investigations into the atrocity.

The leak comes after the name of the Manchester Arena bomber emerged in the US media on Tuesday hours before it was confirmed by UK police, who had earlier urged reporters not to publish speculation about the suspect’s identity.

What’s being said?

A policeman and soldier
The army have been deployed with police since the attack (Yui Mok/PA)

“We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world,” said a spokesman for National Counter Terrorism Policing. “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 unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter-terrorism investigation.”

A Whitehall source said: “We are furious. This is completely unacceptable. These images leaked from inside the US system will be distressing for victims, their families and the wider public.”

A vigil in Manchester
Vigils have been held for victims (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Kurt Volker, a former US permanent representative to Nato and a former CIA analyst, said the “unfortunate” leak could be damaging to long-term security.

He said the leaked images revealed little crucial information but the move was likely to harm information sharing between nations, which plays a vital role in fighting terrorism.

What is being done about it?

The BBC has reported that Greater Manchester Police have stopped passing information to the US on the investigation into the Manchester suicide bombing after the series of leaks to American media.

Theresa May is expected to raise concerns about the intelligence leak when she meets Donald Trump today.

Theresa May
The Prime Minister is meeting with Nato members (Matt Dunham/AP)

The Prime Minister will see the US president at a meeting of Nato in Brussels, where she will urge allies to take on a greater role in the fight against terrorism.

She will say they need to show the same resolve in countering terrorism as they do in responding to the threat from Russia.

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