U.K. crit­i­cizes U.S. leaks about con­cert bomb­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - GRE­GORY KATZ

LONDON — Bri­tain’s home sec­re­tary crit­i­cized U.S. of­fi­cials on Wed­nes­day for leak­ing sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion about the in­quiry into the ex­trem­ist at­tack that killed 22 peo­ple at a Manch­ester con­cert arena.

Am­ber Rudd told Sky News that U.S. of­fi­cials pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to the news media that Bri­tain pre­ferred to keep con­fi­den­tial for rea­sons of op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity. Bri­tain has raised its of­fi­cial terror threat to “crit­i­cal” — mean­ing it is likely an at­tack is im­mi­nent — and is try­ing to un­cover a sus­pected ex­trem­ist net­work be­fore it strikes again.

Rudd said the “el­e­ment of sur­prise” in the po­lice and se­cu­rity ser­vice mea­sures could be com­pro­mised by in­for­ma­tion be­ing re­leased too quickly. Rudd said she had com­plained to U.S. of­fi­cials to make sure the flow of in­for­ma­tion is staunched.

Bri­tish of­fi­cials hadn’t, for ex­am­ple, re­leased the name of the bomber un­til it sur­faced in the U.S. media based on leaks from U.S. of­fi­cials briefed by their Bri­tish coun­ter­parts. Other de­tails also sur­faced first be­cause of leaks in Wash­ing­ton.

It comes at a time when Euro­pean se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have ex­pressed con­cern about shar­ing in­tel­li­gence with the U.S. af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dis­cussed highly clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence about the Is­lamic State group with se­nior Rus­sian of­fi­cials vis­it­ing the White House.

Rep. Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, told re­porters Wed­nes­day he un­der­stands the con­cern about U.S. leaks pos­si­bly harm­ing the U.K. po­lice oper­a­tion.

“If that’s some­thing that we did, I think that’s a real prob­lem,” he said. “If we gave up in­for­ma­tion that has in­ter­fered in any way with their in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­cause it tipped off peo­ple in Bri­tain — per­haps as­so­ci­ates of this per­son that we iden­ti­fied as the bomber — then that’s a real prob­lem and they have every right to be fu­ri­ous.”

He said, how­ever, that even if U.S. in­tel­li­gence sources shared vi­tal in­for­ma­tion with the media, it likely would not af­fect the strong in­tel­li­gence shar­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the U.S. and Bri­tain be­cause it helps both coun­tries.

A Euro­pean se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said “hav­ing a U.S. leak when the sit­u­a­tion has de­vel­oped in the U.K. is noth­ing new.

“His­tor­i­cally, and nearly philo­soph­i­cally, the U.S. and U.K. in­tel ser­vices fol­low dif­fer­ent paths,” the of­fi­cial said on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he wasn’t au­tho­rized to speak about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “The U.S. have adopted a “zero risk” ap­proach mean­ing that the U.S. ser­vices have a much shorter trig­ger when it comes to stop­ping an on­go­ing oper­a­tion. The U.K. ser­vices play it to­tally dif­fer­ently.”

This was high­lighted in the 2006 trans-Atlantic liq­uid bomb plot. Amer­i­cans wanted to pounce to quickly stop the plot whereas Bri­tish author­i­ties were try­ing to bet­ter de­ter­mine the sus­pects’ ca­pa­bil­ity and wider terror con­nec­tions, ac­cord­ing to two Bri­tish of­fi­cials who worked on the case at the time.

U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment spokesper­son David La­pan de­clined to say Wed­nes­day if sus­pected bomber in the Manch­ester at­tack, Sal­man Abedi, had been placed on the U.S. no-fly list. Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, he said, Abedi may have been able to travel to the United States be­cause he was from Bri­tain, a visa-waiver coun­try, but he would have been sub­jected to a back­ground check via the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s Elec­tronic Sys­tem for Travel Au­tho­riza­tion, or ESTA.

La­pan said the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment has shared some in­for­ma­tion about Abedi’s travel with the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment, but de­clined to of­fer specifics.

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