Russia, a US spy source, a pro-Trump minister or a disgruntled civil servant? The four main theories about who could be responsible for leaking the Darroch memos which have sparked a diplomatic war between the US and UK
- Was Russia responsible? Formal probe into leak will look at possible state actors
- Government fear it could’ve been hostile state in bid to damage UK-US relations
- Pro-Trump politicians and disgruntled civil servants also viewed as options
It is the only question on the lips of everyone in Westminster: Who leaked the bombshell memos written by Sir Kim Darroch which have sparked an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between the US and the UK?
The revelations that Sir Kim, the UK’s ambassador in Washington, had described Donald Trump as ‘inept’ and the White House as ‘uniquely dysfunctional’ have rocked the Special Relationship.
Mr Trump reacted with fury to the comments as he lashed out on Twitter and described Theresa May as a ‘disaster’ and ‘foolish’ while he has also called Sir Kim a ‘pompous fool’ and a ‘very stupid guy’.
Downing Street has stuck by Sir Kim and said he has the ‘full confidence’ of Mrs May but the British government is now scrambling to repair the damage done by the leak.
The Cabinet Office has launched a formal investigation to find out who is responsible and all eyes are now on whether somebody is caught amid calls for a criminal inquiry.
There are four main theories in Whitehall about where the leak could have come from: A hostile state actor, a US spy source, a pro-Trump government minister or a disgruntled civil servant.
Sir Kim Darroch has found himself at the centre of an unprecedented diplomatic row between the UK and US after comments he made about the Trump administration were leaked
Jeremy Hunt (pictured at a hustings event yesterday) has confirmed the Government is probing whether Sir Kim Darroch’s scathing memos about Donald Trump were deliberately leaked by a ‘hostile state’ like Russia
Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, confirmed yesterday that the government is probing whether Sir Kim’s scathing memos were deliberately leaked by a ‘hostile state’.
The Foreign Office is considering whether Russia hacked Sir Kim to obtain messages that would ’cause maximum embarrassment and harm’ to officials on both sides of the Atlantic.
They believe hackers could have launched a cyber attack to obtain files in a bid to damage UK-US relations.
He told The Sun: ‘Of course it would be massively concerning if it was the act of a foreign, hostile state.
‘I’ve seen no evidence that that’s the case, but we’ll look at the leak inquiry very carefully.
‘They are going to follow all avenues of inquiry to try to understand how this happened. That’s something that will be considered.’
The idea that the documents could have been obtained by part of the US security apparatus and then leaked has also been floated in some quarters.
But perhaps the two dominant theories about the origins of the material are that either a politician or civil servant collated the information and then divulged it.
One popular theory is that a government minister sympathetic to the current US administration could have passed on the information in a bid to force out Sir Kim so that he could be replaced with a more pro-Trump candidate.
Another is that a civil servant who has been angered by the government’s attempts to curry favour with Mr Trump could have tried to sabotage US/UK relations.
Sir Christopher Meyer, former British ambassador to the US, said there was a ‘range of possible villains’ who might have been responsible.
‘It was clearly somebody who set out, deliberately, to sabotage Sir Kim’s ambassadorship, to make his position untenable, and to have him replaced by somebody more congenial to the leaker,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Meanwhile, Sir Kim’s predecessor suggested it may not be too difficult to ascertain the source of the leak as he said as few as a dozen people may have had access to the cables.
Sir Peter Westmacott said that the most sensitive material sent back to London was not widely distributed.
He spoke to the BBC’s Newsnight after claims that hundreds of people could have had access to the explosive diplomatic material.
‘Some of those diplomatic cables sent by the embassy in Washington would indeed have been seen by hundreds of people,’ Sir Peter said.
‘But the more sensitive stuff — in other words, the ambassador’s personal judgment about the longevity of the Trump administration — would have been written as a letter addressed to an individual, copied to a small number of other individuals, probably not more than half a dozen, perhaps 10 or 12.
‘It ought not to be too difficult for a leak inquiry to discover who had that, and who has shared it with other unauthorized people.’
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