Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly on Sunday denounced the leaking of classified foreign intelligence as “darn close to treason.”
British officials briefly suspended intelligence sharing with the U.S. on Thursday after information relating to their investigation into the Manchester terrorist attack last week was leaked to the press. On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he took “full responsibility” for the leaks, which the British attributed to the United States.
During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kelly said the leaking of such intelligence was “darn close” if not “over the line” of “treason.”
“If [the leak] came from the United States, it’s totally unacceptable,” Kelly told host Chuck Todd. “And I don’t know why people do these kind of things, but it’s borderline, if not over the line, of treason.”
He added: “I think it’s darn close to treason.”
Kelly said that the issue had been immediately broached in the aftermath of the Manchester attack, in which 22 people were killed and more than 100 wounded. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday rebuked the U.S. for the leaks.
“I immediately called my counterpart in the U.K,” he said. “And after offering my condolences about the attack. … She immediately brought this topic up.”
The Trump administration has called the leaks “deeply troubling” and vowed to investigate the matter, with President Donald Trump directing the Justice Department to launch a probe into the incident.
“These leaks have been going on for a long time, and my administration will get to the bottom of this,” Trump said in a statement Thursday. “I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”