WASHINGTON, August 4, 2017 — Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats have brought a sledgehammer to a “staggering number of leaks” out of the White House, Congress and intelligence offices.
In a televised press conference, Sessions said:
“This culture of leaking must stop … Anyone who is considering leaking something should not. The Department of Justice is open for business.”
Mr. Coats offered this ominous promise to leakers: “We will find you.”
“For those out there who may be listening or watching these announcements … if you improperly disclose classified information, we will find you. We will investigate you. We will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law, and you will not be happy with the result.”
Sessions reported that the Justice Department is dedicating new resources and has tripled the number of active leak investigations, to battling unauthorized disclosures of classified information including a new unit at the FBI dedicated to overseeing leak probes.
Never Trumper’s from inside the White House and government have been responsible for a flood of problematic leaks including the disclosure of a classified National Security Agency document by a federal contractor to this week’s leak of entire classified transcripts of Mr. Trump’s phone conversations with his counterparts in Australia and Mexico.
This is not just an issue affecting the Trump administration. Leakers are not taking into consideration the negative impact their actions are having on the “Five Eyes” (FVEY) the intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
These five countries are parties to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.
In June, a federal judge heard evidence against 25-year-old Reality Leigh Winner, who allegedly leaked a classified National Security Agency report to the media. Prosecutors successfully argued that she is a flight risk, a threat to the public and could possibly leak more government documents.
It has been reported that Winner, an NSA contractor and former Air Force linguist, felt she was acting in the same manner as Edward Snowden. Unfortunately for Winner, she was not, and she will not be treated with the same deference Snowden enjoys.
Winner is not heading to Russia, or anyplace else, soon. She faces up to ten years if convicted. And if convicted of a federal charge of gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, a felony offense under the Espionage and Censorship Act, she will probably receive the maximum sentence. If convicted, Winner could face up to 10 years in prison.
Winner is the first known person charged with leaking classified information during the Trump administration, which has called repeatedly for investigations into media reports on leaked intelligence.
Sessions said that four individuals—not saying that Winner is one of those four—are under investigation, telling both intelligence community members and would-be leakers in the White House, Congress or wherever the black rock they hide under is:.
“I have this message for the intelligence community: The Department of Justice is open for business,” he said. “And I have this warning for would-be leakers: Don’t do it.”
The news conference was held Friday morning following the Washington Post publishing leaked transcripts of President Trump’s January phone calls with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Sessions, saying the DOJ “respects” the media, but that respect is not “unlimited.” Sessions said the DOJ will pursue subpoenas, a writ compelling a journalist to testify or produce evidence, with a penalty for failure to do so, for media outlets that publish leaked information.
“I have listened to career investigators and prosecutors about how to most successfully investigate and prosecute these [media leak] matters.”
Sessions further said that the media
“cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance their role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in our intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law abiding Americans.”
Just yesterday, the media leak that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was impaneling the grand jury in the Russia probe was highlighted. The AG has called these leaks as a betrayal of America and that newspapers who publish leaked information may have culpability.
Another media leak being investigated by Justice Department involves the May suicide bomber attack in Manchester. Photos of the remnants of the bomb and the trigger device, that British intelligence had shared with U.S. Intelligence were leaked to the New York Times.
It may be time to encourage the media to look back at the slogan “Loose lips sink ships” an American English idiom meaning “beware of unguarded talk”. Or in this case, click bait.
At the time, Prime Minister Theresa May chastised told President Trump saying that “intelligence shared must remain secure.”
Watch the conference (Courtesy ABC News Youtube)