‘Don’t Do It’: Jeff Sessions, Intel Chiefs Promise to Prosecute Leakers

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and top Justice and intelligence officials held a press conference Friday to address leakers in the federal government.

Sessions, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina all spoke.

Touting a three-fold increase in the number of “active leak investigations,” Sessions told reporters, “I have this message for our friends in the intelligence community: The Department of Justice is open for business. And I have this morning a warning for would-be leakers: Don’t do it.”

“I agree with the president and condemn in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks undermining the ability of our government to protect this country,” Sessions told reporters, later adding, “This culture of leaking must stop.”

Perhaps most controversially, Sessions appeared willing to peer into the operations of the Washington press, so central to the leaks that turned into an epidemic when the new administration took office. “One of the things we’re doing is reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas,” Sessions said, “We respect the important role the press plays and will give them respect, but they cannot place lives at risk with impunity.”

Sessions laid out his three-pronged plan for investigative action on leakers in his prepared remarks:

First, I directed my Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—whose district in Maryland encompassed the NSA headquarters and who has personally led these kinds of investigations— and FBI Director Christopher Wray to oversee all classified leak investigations and actively monitor the progress of each and every case.

Second, I directed the National Security Division and U.S. Attorneys to prioritize cases involving unauthorized disclosures. The Department will not hesitate to bring lawful and appropriate criminal charges against those who abuse the nation’s trust.

Third, as I said, we tripled the number of active leak investigations. In response, the FBI has increased resources devoted to leak cases and created a new counterintelligence unit to manage these cases. Simultaneously, the Department is reviewing policies that impact leak investigations.

Director Coats echoed Sessions’s sentiments, “Anyone who engages in these criminal acts is betraying the intelligence community,” he told reporters, “We feel the pain of those betrayals intensely.”

Coats too added a stark warning to leakers, saying, “If you improperly disclose classified information, we will find you, we will investigate you, and you will not like the result.”

You can watch the entire press conference below:


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