Jus­tice cracks down on leaks within Trump White House

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE

The Jus­tice Depart­ment is ex­pected to de­liver news this week on progress in sniff­ing out the “as­ton­ish­ing” num­ber of leak­ers who have be­dev­iled the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, aim­ing to de­liver on the pres­i­dent’s prom­ise to stop the unau­tho­rized re­lease of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion.

Of­fi­cials are un­likely to de­tail spe­cific in­ves­ti­ga­tions since the depart­ment usu­ally waits un­til crim­i­nal charges are filed be­fore go­ing into any depth.

But they are likely to con­firm the soar­ing rate of leaks.

“We have seen an as­ton­ish­ing in­crease in the num­ber of leaks of clas­si­fied na­tional se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion in re­cent months,” depart­ment spokes­woman Sarah Is­gur Flores said last week.

How the rate of leak in­ves­ti­ga­tions will trans­late into pros­e­cu­tions un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­mains to be seen.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion brought more leak cases — at least eight pros­e­cu­tions — than all pre­de­ces­sors com­bined. But the num­ber of no­ti­fi­ca­tions that DOJ re­ceived from in­tel­li­gence agen­cies about unau­tho­rized dis­clo­sures of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion dur­ing that time was far higher.

In 2016 the Jus­tice Depart­ment re­ceived 37 “crimes re­ports” con­cern­ing unau­tho­rized dis­clo­sures of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments ob­tained by Steven After­good, a gov­ern­ment se­crecy spe­cial­ist with the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Sci­en­tists.

From 2009 through 2016 the Jus­tice Depart­ment re­ceived an av­er­age of 39 such re­ports — a high of 55 in 2013 and a low of 18 in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the data he re­ceived through a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest.

“Not all leaks are crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tions,” Mr. After­good said, not­ing that pros­e­cu­tors typ­i­cally only seek to bring charges in cases in which a per­son dis­closed clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion. “To pros­e­cute a dis­clo­sure of non­clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion is not im­pos­si­ble, but it would re­quire some le­gal ac­ro­bat­ics we have not seen in a while.”

Even in cases where clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion has been leaked, in­ves­ti­ga­tors can’t al­ways iden­tify the cul­prit. Leak in­ves­ti­ga­tions gen­er­ally start by process of elim­i­na­tion, and the more peo­ple who had ac­cess to the leaked in­for­ma­tion, the trick­ier it is to pin­point the source.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors say they’ve been able to iden­tify the source of at least one clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion leak this year. In June 25-year-old fed­eral con­trac­tor Re­al­ity Win­ner was charged in con­nec­tion with leak­ing a clas­si­fied Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency doc­u­ment to a news or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Other leaks are still be­ing probed.

De­tails about a sui­cide bomb­ing out­side a pop con­cert in Manch­ester, Eng­land, leaked to Amer­i­can me­dia out­lets, briefly caus­ing Bri­tish law en­force­ment to stop shar­ing in­for­ma­tion with U.S. agen­cies. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions vowed a crack­down, though no charges have been filed in that case.

De­tails of Mr. Trump’s phone con­ver­sa­tions with his coun­ter­parts in Aus­tralia and Mex­ico have also leaked, as have de­tails about his Oval Of­fice meet­ing with Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov.

The ex­pected Jus­tice Depart­ment an­nounce­ment could be a way to smooth over dif­fi­cul­ties be­tween the pres­i­dent and the at­tor­ney gen­eral. Mr. Trump lashed out at Mr. Ses­sions on nu­mer­ous fronts last week, prompt­ing some to spec­u­late the at­tor­ney gen­eral could be forced out.

But the White House on Mon­day re­jected re­ports that the pres­i­dent might ask Mr. Ses­sions to move into the post at the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, which was va­cated by Gen. John F. Kelly’s move to be­come Mr. Trump’s chief of staff.

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