Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a warning Friday to members of the media, promising a review of the subpoena policy regarding leaks of classified information and characterizing the publication of such materials as an action that “place[s] lives at risk.”
He also warned that the federal government was “taking a stand” against the “culture of leaking” and took a moment during his prepared remarks to speak directly to “would-be leakers.”
“Don’t do it,” said Sessions.
“We respect the important role of the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited,” the attorney general added. “We must balance the press’s role with protecting national security, the lives of those who serve in the intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law-abiding Americans.”
The announcement came at a press conference featuring Sessions and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, in which they announced increased efforts to fight leaks of classified information. The attorney general reported that Justice Department‘s active leak investigations have “more than tripled” “compared to the number at the end of the last administration.”
“Referrals for investigations of classified leaks to the Department of Justice from our intelligence agencies have exploded,” said Sessions.
Sessions referenced journalists as he detailed Friday the input he received on how best to combat the issue.
“I’ve listened to our career investigators, FBI agents and others, and of prosecutors about how to most successfully investigate and prosecute these matters,” said Sessions. “At their suggestion, one of the things we are doing is reviewing policies for effecting media subpoenas.”
Current Justice Department policy on the topic, as described in the Code of Federal Regulations, states that the use of subpoenas, and other “law enforcement tools,” to obtain information from members of the news media are viewed as “extraordinary measures, not standard investigatory practice.”
The section notes that the subpoenas will only be authorized “when the information sought is essential… after all reasonable alternative attempts have been made to obtain the information from alternative sources.” The policy makes an exception for instances in which the media member is the “target” of the investigation or when “conduct” occurred outside of “newsgathering activities.”
For months, President Trump and key Republican lawmakers have been calling on the Justice Department to…