Shell-shocked Britons have reacted in fury after US officials and the New York Times worked together to publish leaked photographs showing the scene of the Manchester terror attack.
The newspaper printed photographs of the inner workings of the bomb used by terrorist Salman Abedi to kill 22 people and wound dozens more in Monday night’s attack.
The images, taken by British police investigators at the scene of the crime, had not been released for publication and are part of a sensitive investigation.
They show the blood-stained floor of the Manchester Arena, chunks of shrapnel, and pieces of Abedi’s backpack, which is believed to have contained the bomb.
Although the Times did not reveal the source of the images, it is all but certain they were passed to the newspaper by US officials, who have access to British evidence files under a long-standing intelligence sharing pact.
Times reporter CJ Chivers wrote the story around the leaked photographs, speculating how the bomb may have been constructed and activated.
The newspaper’s front-page story credits one crime scene photo to London’s Metropolitan Police – which usually implies that the images are being published with their permission.
However, police sources speaking to Heat Street today flatly denied that they had consented to the images being released to the public domain.
Anger in some quarters was especially acute given that the current CEO of the New York Times, Mark Thompson, is himself British.
Thompson, who is arguably ultimately responsible for the publication of the story even if he wasn’t directly involved in it, might be expected to show some loyalty for his country’s security services. And he presumably has some affection for Manchester, given that he oversaw the relocation of large chunks of the BBC to an area just outside the city.
@cjchivers Oh, and my old boss, Mark Thompson, what the f**k?!? This is the worst story I've read on the Manchester attack by a f@)king mile
— Matt Slater (@mjshrimper) May 24, 2017
Publishing the images was the latest – and most serious – incident in a series of leaks which have seen information about the attack handed to the US media despite requests from the British government for it to be kept secret.
Senior UK law enforcement officials, politicians and members of the public were outraged at the breach of faith, which could compromise the police’s ability to catch the killer.
US media haven't touched upon the growing anger in UK over these American officials leaking British intel. Turning into a shitstorm here.
— Julia Macfarlane (@juliamacfarlane) May 24, 2017
A rare statement by the UK’s National Police Chief’s Council condemned the leaks, which it said “undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families.”
Amber Rudd, the UK’s Home Secretary, made a public plea on Wednesday morning for US officials to stop leaking information.
Hours later, the New York Times rolled out its front page, showing that her request had been ignored.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, confronted the US ambassador about the leaks, which he condemned in a TV interview as “just wrong”.
On Thursday morning it emerged that British police have now stopped sharing information about the case with the United States.
The US has direct access to the fruits of British investigations under the “Five Eyes” security pact, which sees the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States give one another almost unlimited access to their stashes of evidence.
Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to raise the issue with President Donald Trump, who she will meet today at a gathering of NATO members in Belgium.