US leaks about the Manchester bombing are part of a 'political war' being waged on Donald Trump
Speaking last night Matthew Burrows, who served 28 years with the agency until 2013, said the leaking of sensitive information has reached levels never before seen in America’s intelligence conference community.
Mr Burrows, now with the Atlantic Council think tank, said: “It’s become a blood sport, politically motivated to embarrass him. They want nothing short of impeaching and convicting him and that is part of that.
“This has become a political warfare never seen in Washington before. Even in Nixon’s darkest days, the intelligence agencies remained loyal.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd was forced to suspend the sharing of information concerning Monday's Manchester terror attack after a series of damaging leaks by US agencies.
The leaks, including details of suicide bomber Salman Abedi’s name, the death toll and pictures of the crime scene, continued after Rudd expressed public frustration and sought assurances that they would stop.
Amber Rudd was forced to suspend the sharing of information concerning Monday's attack
It prompted agency officials in Britain and Europe to question the wisdom of sharing sensitive data with the US.
This has become a political warfare never seen in Washington before
Mr Burrows said: “Britain should be worried. There’s no telling how serious the next leak will be.
“Journalists here in Washington tell me they’re spoilt for choice for sources from within the intelligence community coming to them with information as willing volunteers.
“There have been so many leaks that it smacks of impunity, which is dangerous.
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Manchester bombing: Investigation so far Wed, May 24, 2017
The investigation so far into the Manchester bomb attack that killed at least 22 people, with more than 60 injured after Salman Abedi detonated a bomb in the Manchester Arena, at 10:30pm Monday, 22 May 2017
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Handout photo courtesy of Alex Finnie, of men wearing body armour during a raid of a block of flats in Blackley, north Manchester, following the attack on Manchester Arena
“When I was in intelligence, newspapers would cooperate with the Government – if there was an aspect to a story that could harm national security, they would hold back.
"You don't need sensitive details to fully report on an event. That trust has broken down. Would the media have listened if the FBI had asked them to hold back?
“The only way to fix this is for Trump to build bridges with both the intelligence agencies and the media. Why hasn’t he gone to Langley (CIA headquarters) or at least send Secretary of State Tillerson there?”
But Luke Coffey, former aide to defence secretary Liam Fox, said leaks had always been a problem and warned against “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Mr Coffey, a former US soldier now with the Washington DC-based Heritage Foundation think tank, said: “The fact is that Britain gains 90 per cent of its intelligence from the NSA. It is a net benefactors in a relationship founded on trust over the last 70 years.
The leaks included details of Salman Abedi's name, the death toll and pictures of the crime scene
Last night it emerged the FBI had warned British intelligence services about Abedi in January.
Britain has enjoyed a privileged intelligence sharing relationship with the US since 1941. It later evolved into “Five Eyes” with the inclusion of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Coffey said: “Leaking has always been an issue – particularly in Britain. I remember letters written by Liam Fox to the Prime Minister which ended up in national newspapers.
“When all’s said and done, the information disclosed last week was not particularly damaging, and would have emerged sooner or later anyway.
“The amount of intelligence we share on counter terror issues is just too important to throw away.”
Trump’s fraught relationship with his intelligence agencies, damaged by suspicions over his ties with Russia, was thought to have been improving.
Key foreign policy decisions, including April’s dropping of the ‘Mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan and a toughened stance against North Korea were showing, said former CIA chief General Michael Hayden, that “he is listening”.
But that ended with the firing of FBI chief Jamey Comey on May 9 over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails.
At the heart of disquiet are indications that Trump attempted to bypass security services with direct links to key Russians.
Sources investigating links have disclosed that there were at least 18 undisclosed calls and emails between Trump associates, including sacked national security advisor Gen Mike Flynn and advisor Jared Kushner, in the seven months before the November 8 presidential election, including six calls with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak Kislyak.
On Friday it was claimed that the attempts continued, with evidence that Kushner, his son-in-law, set up a secret back channel to Moscow using Russian hardware, and designed to by pass official channels, in December.