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British Police Suspend Intelligence Sharing With U.S. After Leaks

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump says American leaks about Britain's investigation into the Manchester terrorist bombing are, quote, "deeply troubling." He's asked the Justice Department to launch a full investigation. Earlier today, we learned that Manchester Police were no longer sharing information with the U.S. because of concern over leaks. That information sharing has apparently resumed now.

To talk about the impact of these leaks and others, we spoke with Richard Clarke. He led counterterrorism efforts for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. I asked him how big a deal it was that the Manchester Police stopped sharing information about the investigation.

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, it's, I think, unprecedented in relationship between American and British law enforcement and intelligence. We've had an occasionally batted (ph) relationship, but we depend on each other a great deal for this kind of critical information.

SHAPIRO: Does American safety to any extent depend on this kind of information sharing with the Brits and other allies?

CLARKE: Oh, absolutely. We need to know the techniques. We need to know the kinds of weapons. We need to know the people involved so that we can make sure it doesn't happen to us here in the United States or to U.S. facilities abroad.

SHAPIRO: And does the British investigation suffer if they're not getting the full cooperation from the United States that they're used to?

CLARKE: Yeah. It's a very mutual dependent relationship. They really rely on the FBI and its forensics capability particularly in skill with reconstructing bombs from the debris left over after an explosion. And they can't do that without the United States helping.

SHAPIRO: Of course, this is not the only time that leaking has recently become an issue with the U.S. and its allies. President Trump disclosed classified information to Russia. That information came from an ally reportedly Israel.

Allies need each other to fight common enemies. So is there a risk that at some point other nations may stop sharing information with the U.S. as freely as they're accustomed to doing?

CLARKE: Well, there is. If we get the reputation of being a leaky boat, we won't get the information we need or we might not get the level of granularity we need. For example, as the Israeli story is true, they might in the future tell us the bottom line, but not give us the source. And without knowing the source, we can't really judge the veracity of another country's intelligence report.

So it's very important that the new Trump administration, which has no experience - at least the president has no experience in national security - that he get educated quickly and that he started exercising some self-control about what he says to foreign leaders.

SHAPIRO: There was also this report just yesterday that President Trump disclosed to the Filipino leader Duterte that the U.S. was sending submarines towards North Korea. Once information like that starts getting out, is there a chance that aside from formalized information-sharing protocols, people may just on an individual judgment basis start withholding things that they think might not stay secret if they share them with the Americans?

CLARKE: Oh, I think that's possible or they will share them in an informal way with the State Department or CIA saying you need to know this information, but please don't pass it on to the White House.

SHAPIRO: Ultimately, do you think this represents a long-term threat to the kind of information-sharing relationship that has been built up with allies over the years or are these blips on the radar that will soon pass?

CLARKE: Well, there are certainly several blips on the radar in a very short period of time. And if they continue, it will have a very damaging effect. If the president gets control of himself and the bureaucracy, it can be put in the past.

SHAPIRO: You've been in multiple administrations, is this very unusual?

CLARKE: It's highly unusual, and particularly for a president not to be told that something is extremely sensitive, not to be told don't share this with anybody outside of the U.S. government, that's not entirely the president's fault. It's also the fault of his advisers for not educating him.

SHAPIRO: Richard Clarke was a White House counterterrorism adviser. Thank you for joining us.

CLARKE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.