The Associated Press LONDON (AP) — A British police investigation into the leak of confidential diplomatic memos is raising press freedom issues, as police warned Saturday that U.K. media outlets might face a criminal inquiry if leaked documents are published.
The Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command is investigating the leak of private memos written by Britain’s ambassador to the United States that were published in the Mail on Sunday six days ago. The leak led to Wednesday’s resignation of British Ambassador Kim Darroch, who had criticized President Donald Trump in the leaked confidential cables. Trump said his administration would no longer work with Darroch.
British police indicated Saturday they issued the unusual warning because of concerns that more leaked memos are “in circulation.” They say they want editors to know publishing them may be against the law because there is a criminal investigation underway into whether the original leak violated the Officials Secret Act.
The statement appeared timed to prevent Sunday newspapers from publishing more leaked memos.
“The publication of these specific documents, now knowing they may be a breach of the OSA, could also constitute a criminal offence and one that carries no public interest defense,” said Neil Basu, who heads the investigation as chief of counter-terrorism unit. “We know these documents and potentially others remain in circulation.”
British officials say they believe the leak was not a result of outside hacking but seems to have been carried out by an insider. The Foreign Office criticized the leak but did not challenge the authenticity of the memos, which characterized the Trump administration as chaotic and inept. Darroch’s defenders said his critical memos showed he was doing his job by providing candid assessments, as diplomats are expected to do, but he said the controversy had made it impossible to fulfill his duties.Speech