Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday announced a series of steps the Justice Department is taking to crack down on leaks of sensitive government information.
Sessions said the efforts to combat leaks from the Trump administration will include a review of policies affecting media subpoenas.
“We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited,” Sessions said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity.”
He added, “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.”
The comments from Sessions come as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have criticized the leaking of transcripts of conversations between President Donald Trump and world leaders.
The Washington Post on Thursday published transcripts of calls between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Sessions argued that governments cannot be effective when their leaders cannot discuss sensitive matters or talk freely in confidence with foreign leaders.
“No one is entitled to surreptitiously fight their battles in the media by revealing sensitive government information,” Sessions said.
The attorney general noted that the Justice Department received nearly as many criminal referrals involving unauthorized disclosures of classified information in the first six months of the Trump administration as it received in the last three years combined.
Sessions said the Justice Department has subsequently more than tripled the number of active leak investigations compared to the number pending at the end of the Obama administration.
“And I have this warning for would-be leakers: Don’t do it,” Sessions said. “For the past several months, we have already made changes and are seriously ramping up our efforts.”
In addition to reviewing media subpoena policies, Sessions said he has directed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray to oversee all classified leak investigations and actively monitor the progress of each and every case.
Sessions said he has also directed the National Security Division and U.S. Attorneys to prioritize cases involving unauthorized disclosures.
Reflecting the jump in the number of active leak investigations, Sessions the FBI has also increased the resources devoted to leak cases and created a new counterintelligence unit to manage…