Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that the Department of Justice (DoJ) is reviewing policies for subpoenaing reporters during investigations of federal intelligence leaks, an indicator that the US government may consider more aggressive tactics to try and force journalists to identify their sources.
“One of the things we are doing is reviewing the policies affecting media subpoenas,” Mr Sessions said, announcing his administration’s crackdown on leaks during a press conference. “We respect the important role that the press plays, and we will give our support. But, it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity.”
Mr Sessions said that he had instructed his Justice Department to review its leak prosecution policies earlier this year, and that the results “concerned” him. There were too few referrals for prosecution over classified leaks, too few investigations, and an insufficient amount of resources dedicated to those investigations, he said.
Mr Sessions has since then instructed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee al classified leak investigations, and to monitor each case. The DoJ is tripling the number of active leak investigations as well, while the FBI is devoting more resources to cracking down on leaks. Four people, he said, had already been charged with unlawfully disclosing classified material, or for concealing contacts with federal officers, he said.
“We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country,” Mr Sessions said. “These cases, to investigate and prosecute, are never easy. But cases will be made and leakers will be held accountable.”
Mr Sessions then left without taking any questions from the media.
The announcement follows months of leaks from the White House, which officials there say are damaging to national security. Just recently, a transcript from conversations between Donald Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Australia were leaked to the Washington Post, detailing contentious contact between the US president and two ally leaders. Those leaks, while providing a rare glimpse into Mr Trump’s management style as President, were widely criticised by Trump allies and foes alike.
“This is beyond the pale and will have a chilling effect going forward on the ability of the commander in chief to have candid discussions with his counterparts,” Ned Price, a former National Security Official during the Obama administration, told the Hill of the transcript leaks.