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US Manchester attack leak could hinder probe, warns Jack Straw

Intelligence information leaked in the USA could hinder the investigation into the Manchester Arena suicide bomb attack, a former home secretary says.

By Sue Doherty

Jack Straw, who has served as both home secretary and foreign secretary, was speaking to the BBC on Thursday morning after the New York Times published crime scene photos of the attack which killed 22 people on Monday night.

It's understood that the photos were leaked to the press by US intelligence sources. The claim follows allegations that other details of the attack were released to media in the US before they were disclosed in the UK.

Mr Straw told the BBC on Thursday morning that the leaks constitute "a serious breach of the understanding and rules about cooperation between intelligence agencies".

He added: "And it's not for the New York Times to say whether or not this kind of evidence is safe to put in the public domain. That's a matter for the investigating authorities here."

Whenever the UK is suspected of leaking intelligence shared by the US, he stated: "the wrath of God of the United States comes down upon the United Kingdom, and we're told that this will screw up cooperation forever and a day."

Mr Straw said he believes it "is possible that these leaks could hinder the investigation".

"If, for example, information about the kind of container that the bomb in when it blew up is leaked, that could compromise the line of questioning of other suspects, and there are plenty of things like that."

In any case, it is vital that in such a "highly sensitive investigation" the authorities with whom the intelligence is shared, "respect both the source of the intelligence and the fact that it is in iron law in all intelligence cooperation that the organisation giving the intelligence determines its use and whether or not it should be disclosed".

Asked whether the attack represented a security failure, Mr Straw said he did not have access to the information needed to answer that question.

He did, however, indicate that it is virtually impossible to prevent any and all terrorist attacks, as was seen during The Troubles.

"With the best will in the world, and the most perfect and well financed police and security services in the world, terrorists will always get through on some occasions, I'm sad to say.

"That was the experience in Northern Ireland and indeed in the UK mainland throughout The Troubles."

Mr Straw also said he hopes that the public do not turn against either the police and security agencies or the British Muslim community.

"I hope very much that people do not turn against the security intelligence agencies and the police because there has been a bombing because the fundamental responsiblity for the bombing is the bomber's.

"I think that we in the United Kingdom have done better than in most European countries to try and respect both the religion and the religious practices of the Muslim community but also to help them have a stake in our society.

"It is a cliche but it's true - 99.9% of that community are as committed to the United Kingdom as are the rest of us."

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