Leaked intelligence hampers investigation

JOE VARNER  –  May 26, 2017

26 May 2017

British police are reportedly desperately searching to find the bomb-making factory, the bomb-maker, and further members of the ISIS terror cell operating in the United Kingdom before another tragic attack can occur.

Today, Her Majesty the Queen went to visit the injured and staff in hospital in Manchester. The casualty figures remain unchanged with 22 dead, and 64 wounded, including 20 in critical condition. According to numerous media reports, the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, has been linked to both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) as is his surviving family, who are of Libyan origin. The bomber, Salman Abedi, bragged about going to Libya in the summer to fight for ISIS against the regime of the day.  It is believed that he received training abroad in both Libya and Syria and was part of a Libyan ISIS attack cell. Abedi’s brother, Ismail Abedi, is under arrest in the United Kingdom, and his younger brother, Hashem Abedi, and father Ramadan Abedi, are under arrest in Libya. Seven other Manchester men of Libyan origin have been arrested by security forces. During the arrests in the UK items of interest were discovered and seized by the authorities.  There have been several controlled explosions. Not surprisingly, it was reported that Salman Abedi was known to be a security threat by British and US security forces. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The bomb itself has been described as so big, and so sophisticated, with some component parts not available in Britain, that there had to be outside assistance with the bomb-maker likely at large. The bomb appears to have been transported by Salman Abedi to the Manchester Arena in a backpack. Based on media reports the bomb was well made to ensure that it would detonate and that its shrapnel would disperse. According to American authorities in yet another intelligence leak, the bomb was made of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) a favorite of both Al Qaeda and ISIS. Al Qaeda used TATP in bombs that targeted London’s metro and buses in July 2005.  ISIS used TATP for its suicide bombings in Paris in November 2015 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis and café and restaurants, and Brussels in February 2016 targeting the metro station and the airport. There are reported similarities in both the bombs used and the tactics employed by the bomber.

In terms of security measures in the United Kingdom, Operation Temperer continues with the security threat elevated to critical. One thousand armed British troops are on the streets of London and elsewhere supporting the police in a fashion not seen since the height of hostilities in Northern Ireland. Security measures are being taken in Manchester, Bristol, and Bath. Armed police, in an almost unprecedented move, have been placed on trains in Britain by the Transport Police, and the armed British police that guard nuclear facilities are on a heightened state of alert. MI5 is reportedly managing 500 active national security investigations, involving 3,000 people of interest and it is said that the British security forces have stopped five terrorist attacks since the Westminster terror attack in late March.

Meanwhile the ‘Five Eyes’ Intelligence partners of the US are rumored to be increasingly concerned by leaks coming out of the US intelligence community and its leadership when their support is needed most. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, at a NATO summit, took US President, Donald Trump, to task over leaks for the American intelligence community to the US media of critical details of the bomb investigation. Among the most harmful leaks from the British perspective, are premature release of the bomber’s name that may have harmed attempts to seize his associates, and details about the bomb itself that might impact the investigation. The British are said to be furious and have ceased sharing of information with the US. This has received little attention in the US media that has benefited from the leaks, but represents a series of intelligence mistakes by the US intelligence community, and its political leadership, including the President. President Trump under attack in the media again for disclosing the presence of two US Navy attack submarines off Korea to his Philippine counter-part. President Trump has given Prime Minister May his assurance that the leaks will stop and ordered a Justice Department investigation. In a move potentially doomed to failure, NATO has decided to form a Counter-Terror Cell to fight foreign terrorists, but its success will hinge on intelligence sharing, and given the current state of problems within the US intelligence community, this will be huge challenge in trust and confidence among close allies.

– Joe Varner