President Donald Trump on Thursday called for the Department of Justice to conduct a full investigation into leaks of sensitive government information that “pose a grave threat” to national security.
Trump’s initiative was prompted by leaks of information pertaining to Monday evening’s suicide bombing at Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom.
“The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling,” Trump said in a statement. “These leaks have been going on for a long time, and my administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security.”
“I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and, if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.
British officials were displeased when The New York Times published forensic photographs of a bloodstained switch and battery used by the Manchester suicide bomber.
The Times did not cite the source of the crime scene photos, but attributed its account to “preliminary information gathered by British authorities.”
The identity of the suspect, Salman Abedi, was also leaked to U.S. media less than 24 hours after the attack, against the wishes of British authorities.
Police investigating the terrorist attack have stopped sharing information with the U.S. following the numerous leaks to American media outlets, according to the BBC.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd called the leaks “irritating” and said they “should not happen again.”
Manchester’s Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said the Times’ disclosure of official crime scene photographs “has caused much distress for families that are already suffering terribly with their loss.”
The British National Police Chiefs’ Council said the unauthorized disclosure of crime scene evidence “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,” the Council added.
Prime Minister Theresa May said she would confront Trump directly about the leaks Thursday at the NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels.
“I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure,” May told reporters.
The Times defended its reporting in a statement Thursday.
“The images and information presented were neither graphic nor disrespectful of victims, and consistent with the common line of reporting on weapons used in horrific crimes,” the statement read.
“Our mission is to cover news and inform our readers,” the statement continued. “Our coverage of Monday’s horrific attack has been both comprehensive and responsible.”
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