Scotland Yard has launched a criminal investigation into the leak of classified diplomatic emails sent by Britain’s ambassador to America which criticised US President Donald Trump’s administration as “dysfunctional”. Kim Darroch has since been forced to resign from his post after his views of an “inept” and “dysfunctional” Trump government hit the newspapers last week and attracted direct social media attacks from the US President.
“The Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, who take national responsibility for investigating allegations of criminal breaches of the Official Secrets Act, has launched a criminal investigation,” Neil Basu, the Met Police’s Indian-origin counter-terrorism lead, said in a statement on Friday.
“Given the widely reported consequences of that leak I am satisfied that there has been damage caused to UK international relations, and there would be clear public interest in bringing the person or people responsible to justice. The investigation will be reviewed at every stage to ensure a proportionate investigation is undertaken,” he said.
The Met Police probe follows a cross-government investigation led by the UK Cabinet Office, which resulted in a “Gateway Process” for the police to step in. Addressing the guilty person or people, Basu accused them of diverting busy detectives from undertaking the core counter-terrorism mission.
“You can stop this now. Turn yourself in at the earliest opportunity, explain yourself and face the consequences. Also, to anyone who knows or suspects those responsible, or who has any information, please come forward,” Basu said, assuring the “strictest confidence” to anyone who did get in contact with information.
The Met Police Assistant Commissioner, one of the UK’s senior-most police officers, also issued a warning about the publication of leaked material.
“The publication of leaked communications, knowing the damage they have caused or are likely to cause may also be a criminal matter.
“I would advise all owners, editors and publishers of social and mainstream media not to publish leaked government documents that may already be in their possession, or which may be offered to them, and to turn them over to the police or give them back to their rightful owner, Her Majesty’s Government,” he said.
However, this aspect of the police intervention has attracted criticism, with some UK media chiefs describing it as “ill-advised” and an attack on media freedom.
The diplomatic row has played out for over a week since the publication of the leaked emails dating back to 2017, which were extremely critical of the Trump administration.
It opened up an open war between the White House and the UK government, with British Prime Minister Theresa May and UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt speaking out in support of the diplomat’s right to be able to give his honest assessment in private communications.
Trump took too Twitter to brand Darroch a “very stupid man” and widened his attacks to Theresa May, criticising her for her poor handling of Brexit.
In an apparent backtrack on Friday, the US President said he wished the British ambassador well and that he had been told Darroch had actually said “some very good things” about him.