Attorney General

Sessions says leak probes have tripled and four have been charged

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions/Gage Skidmore

The U.S. Justice Department has more than tripled the number of active investigations of government leaks since the end of the Obama administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday.

Speaking at a news conference, Sessions said he condemned “in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks” that undermine the ability of government to protect the country. “This culture of leaking must stop,” he said. The Washington Post, Politico, USA Today and the New York Times are among the publications with coverage; his prepared remarks are here.

Sessions said that, in a six-month period, the Justice Department had received almost as many criminal referrals involving disclosures of classified information as it had in the past three years combined. Unauthorized disclosures include leaks to the media as well as to foreign adversaries, Sessions said.

The Justice Department has already charged four people with either leaking classified information or concealing contacts with foreign intelligence officers, he revealed.

Sessions did not elaborate who has been charged. During President Donald Trump’s administration, the only announced charges were filed against Reality Leigh Winner, a 25-year-old government contractor, the Post says. Winner was accused of leaking a top-secret National Security Agency document about Russian hacking to an unnamed news outlet.

Sessions also revealed that the Justice Department is reviewing its policy on subpoenaing reporters. “We respect the important role that the press plays, and we’ll give them respect, but it is not unlimited,” Sessions said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity.”

Sessions’ remarks follow Trump ripping the former Alabama senator in a Twitter post less than two weeks ago calling for a crackdown on leakers.

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