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Sessions Announced Four Charged Over Leaks, Warns Leaking Must Stop

Sessions Announced Four Charged Over Leaks, Warns Leaking Must Stop

DOJ reviewing policies to subpoena media when it publishes leaked info.

Earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press conference to announce that four people face charges for leaking classified information while other investigations have intensified. From Fox News:

Session [sic] said criminals who have leaked classified information are “being investigated and will be prosecuted.” He added that four people have already been charged with leaking classified material and related counts, and investigations have tripled.

Sessions said he has directed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and new FBI Director Christopher Wray to oversee all classified leak investigations and actively monitor the progress.

He said a new counterintelligence unit has been created to manage cases, and he has directed the National Security Division and U.S. attorneys to prioritize cases involving unauthorized disclosures.

Sessions stated that the “culture of leaking must stop,” but it goes beyond those in the government leaking the information. He said the department will begin to review “its policy related to subpoenaing the media when leaks are published.” From CBS News:

“I have listened to career investigators and prosecutors about how to most successfully investigate and prosecute these matters,” Sessions said. “At their suggestion, one of the things we are doing is reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas. We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. 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.”

But Sessions — despite suggesting the Justice Department may pursue media outlets with legal action — took no questions from the press after he had concluded his remarks, leaving frustrated reporters with unanswered questions.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also had a warning:

“For those out there who may be listening or watching these announcements … if you improperly disclose classified information, we will find you,” Coats said. “We will investigate you. We will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law, and you will not be happy with the result.”

Protection for Journalists?

Washington, D.C., and 49 other states have shield laws that protect a reporter from giving up confidential sources. There is no federal shield law at the federal level, though.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder had guidelines on how to obtain “information from members of the media.” Holder promised in 2013 that “he would ‘not prosecute any reporter’ for doing their jobs.”

However, former President Barack Obama’s administration saw nine prosecutors bring “charges in nine cases – more than all previous administrations combined.”

USA Today noted that a media advisory group formed during the administration after actions had been taken “against reporters and new organizations in pursuit of leak investigations.”

Back in 2013, The Washington Post‘s editorial board even wrote an op-ed to explain why those moves prove journalists need a federal shield law:

SOME GOVERNMENT secrets should remain under wraps. Many others are kept out of view for poor reasons, including extreme caution, rote classification habits and a lack of recognition that withholding information from the public should be an extraordinary practice. One crucial job of a journalist is to look where she is not supposed to, serve as an advocate for the public’s right to know and disseminate information that people should see. Revelations about government misconduct, bureaucratic incompetence and undisclosed programs worthy of public debate are the result.

When the Obama administration wages an aggressive campaign against leaks or, as in previous administrations, journalists are threatened with or sent to jail because they refuse to give up their sources, people think twice about talking, and reporters are deterred from pursuing their mission. It’s long past time for Congress to pass a law protecting journalists from being forced to disclose information about the sources, methods and content of their reporting to the government.


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buckeyeminuteman | August 4, 2017 at 4:11 pm

It’s high time this message was put out there. Probably time to start convicting and sentencing people people too. Examples need to be made. I can think of a few former State and Justice Dept officials to start with.

Coloradoopenrange | August 4, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Prison time. Not the white collar prison either. Comey himself is guilty.

So Hillary has been indicted then?

DrainTheSwampNow | August 4, 2017 at 4:34 pm

I personally do not understand why the press should be given a free pass and not prosecuted for the initial printing of classified information.

    Because there isn’t and can’t be a law against them publishing it. There is no “classified” exception to the first amendment. Government employees are forbidden to tell you or me information they’ve been told not to, but once they have we are free to do whatever we like with it. We don’t work for the government, so classification is irrelevant to us.

      Matt_SE in reply to Milhouse. | August 4, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      I see.
      So what you’re saying is that free speech is absolute and I can shout “fire” in a crowded theater if I feel like it.

        Milwaukee in reply to Matt_SE. | August 4, 2017 at 9:59 pm

        THe press is pretty cavalier about what they publish. Remember years ago, the North Koreans captures some of our sailors. One of them signaled in a captive press meeting using their eyes and Morse Code. Somebody figured it out, and then told a member of the press, who published the information. The North Koreans found out, and the sailor was soundly beaten. The press doesn’t care about this country, or their rights, they care about their agenda.

        MadisonS in reply to Matt_SE. | August 5, 2017 at 3:20 am

        Of course you can shout fire in a crowded theater. There is You can find judicial dicta on this very subject in the line of cases Frank Collin v. Village of Skokie originating in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, through the appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and up to the Supreme Court. They are very enlightening cases regarding free speech and the expression of pernicious ideas.

        A theater is not a Supreme Court defined public forum in which the government cannot engage in the suppression of any idea and 1st Amendment rights are entitled to the broadest protection. But even if it is, that is of no consequence. The issue is not one of free speech but of tort.

        Everyone has a duty not to injure or cause harm to another. It is foreseeable that yelling fire will breach that duty and cause harm to other patrons. The person yelling fire can then be held liable for all ensuing harm including injury to others and possibly wrongful death.

          MadisonS in reply to MadisonS. | August 5, 2017 at 3:34 am

          (I hit submit too quickly.)

          Shouting fire may also be depending on the state of mind of the shouter an intentional tort. So one can shout it without any regard to a 1st Amendment analysis. But be prepared to suffer the liability consequences.

          Matt_SE in reply to MadisonS. | August 5, 2017 at 2:01 pm

          I see.
          So what you’re saying is that the press can publish whatever they like, but should be prepared for the consequences if they reveal sensitive information.
          In that case, Sessions should be arresting journalists and editors right now.

          Milhouse in reply to MadisonS. | August 6, 2017 at 12:17 pm

          Um, no. They have no legal duty not to reveal that information.

          The whole “falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic” comes from the infamous Schenck decision, which has since been thoroughly repudiated and is no longer part of our law. Three Generations of a Hackneyed Apologia for Censorship are Enough

“One crucial job of a journalist is to look where she is not supposed to, serve as an advocate for the public’s right to know and disseminate information that people should see.”

Okay, no problem… I can go along with that. However, the Mainstream Media should take a long hard look at what they decide people should see. If you get a transcript of a Presidential phone call to another head of State… perhaps a little bell in your head should go off, and you should consider the ramifications of publishing it.

Me? I would have decided not to publish… but I’d trade the transcript for some kind of official answer to a burning question… something like that.

By all means, gather the information… but don’t endanger the Nation by publishing it in order to get clicks.

    Matt_SE in reply to MrMichael. | August 4, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    This brings up another problem which is underappreciated:
    It puts classified information in the hands of the media, and makes them the arbiters of whether it should be published or not.

    They don’t have that right.
    They don’t have the right to hold classified/secret/top secret information and decide whether or not to publish it. They don’t have the right to hold it at all.

      Milwaukee in reply to Matt_SE. | August 4, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      Actually, what you are seeing isn’t the point he is trying to make. The fire in a theater thing is a distraction.

      So, if somebody in the DOJ leaked information about Fast and Furious, the gun deal, and that information landed Holder in jail, that would be a bad thing? It is entirely possible the day may come, or has already been here, when our government has lied to us and we needed a leaker to set things straight.

      Milhouse in reply to Matt_SE. | August 6, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      They do have that right. So does anyone else into whose hands such information falls. Whether they make the right decision is a question of ethics, not law.

inspectorudy | August 4, 2017 at 4:50 pm

How about a law that says that if any revelation of classified material by any form of media leads to death or destruction/loss of property then that media outlet can be sued for liability? Do they have any responsibility now? Apparently not because they print or say anything that may embarrass Trump without concern for the fallout damages that they may cause. Even national security is no longer considered a reason to withhold classified material.

    Milhouse in reply to inspectorudy. | August 4, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    The first amendment would prevent such a law. Pretty much the only legal weapon the government has against reporters who receive leaks is the right to make them testify who gave it to them, just like anyone else who has knowledge relevant to a legal proceeding can be made to testify about it.

What are the legal definitions of “media” and “the press?”

These people do not report news. They are the propaganda arm of the left unless you accept their self-serving dishonest claims (also propaganda).

    Milhouse in reply to TX-rifraph. | August 4, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    There is no need for any definition, because there’s nothing special about them. They are subject to the same laws as everyone else — and enjoy the same first amendment protections as everyone else.

    Ragspierre in reply to TX-rifraph. | August 4, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    For the eleventieth time….

    The “press” as used by the Framers was not about any class of people or enterprises. No class of protected scriveners.

    “Freedom of the press” is all about…and pretty much ONLY about…freedom of the means of mass communication. One can readily see why this was so important to protect. IF you could write stuff critical of your government or others, but you had no means of making it broadly available because the government restricted the use of mass communications, your rights to communicate are pretty much nil.

    Milton Friedman pointed all this out decades ago.

      Milhouse in reply to Ragspierre. | August 4, 2017 at 7:35 pm

      More precisely, “freedom of speech and of the press” is not two separate items, it’s one item — the freedom to say and to publish whatever one likes — which applies equally to everyone. Separating them is part of the con the reporters’ trade has pulled on people.

Pretty weak stuff, actually.

Most of this talk is about improper handling of classified information, which is in general already subject to legal regulation. It’s easy enough to talk tough about things which are already illegal.

But the current annoying situation is about chronic leaks, classified or not. I don’t see much in these statements about those.

Enough ‘warnings.’
Like Chamberlain ‘warning’ Hitler.

Enough weak tea. Make the likes of Scaramouchi the attorney general.

4 charged? Names, please?

Receiving stolen property is a crime. As should recieving classified information.

Journalists are not a privileged class of pigs. They are just plain old pigs.

America Needs More Bacon

    Milhouse in reply to Anchovy. | August 4, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Information is not property. Learning it can’t be a crime. But soliciting a government employee to leak it is, just like procuring any other illegal act. And if subpoenaed to testify about it, refusal to do so is a crime.

      Liz in reply to Milhouse. | August 4, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      “Information is not property. Learning it can’t be a crime.”

      Isn’t one of the talking points about the Donald Trump Jr. seeking information about Clinton was that such information was collusion and a crime?

        Milhouse in reply to Liz. | August 4, 2017 at 6:42 pm

        No. The talking point is that “colluding” with a hostile government for the purpose of interfering in a US election, although not illegal, is politically offensive. And the talking point is wrong.

        Ragspierre in reply to | August 5, 2017 at 8:06 am

        Gawd, you’re a weak troll.

        “intellectual property” means any patent, trade mark, copyright, design right, registered design, technical or commercial information or other intellectual property;

        From an intellectual property case.

        In ENGLAND.

        “Intellectual property” is not property at all. It’s a completely separate class that is often treated as property for a limited purpose, because it’s convenient to to so. Despite the propaganda of the IP lobby, breach of copyright is not theft, and cannot be treated as theft.

        From the English-and-Welsh decision you linked to (you did realise it’s English, not USAn, didn’t you?): “While the prevailing current view is that confidential information is not strictly property, it is not inappropriate to include it as an aspect of intellectual property.”

Holder promised in 2013 that “he would ‘not prosecute any reporter’ for doing their jobs.

And he was wrong to do so. The law cares no more what is part of a reporter’s job than it cares what is part of a plumber’s job. Not so long ago reporters’ jobs used to include breaking into people’s homes and stealing photographs; does anyone suggest that they should not have been prosecuted for this, if caught? The first amendment does not give reporters special protection or privileges, and no amount of insisting it does will change that. Reporters are expected to do their jobs within the law, just like shoemakers or street sweepers, and not to do their jobs if they conflict with the law.

Comey, McCabe, Mueller, McMasters, that professor at NYU, check them all out on a waterboard. Muellers people leak at least once a day. It is obscene.

    YellowSnake in reply to puhiawa. | August 5, 2017 at 12:28 am

    People who have played golf with Mueller and Trump (separately) report the Mueller is a stickler for the rules and Trump cheats. ‘Nuf said.

I like Sessions as a person just fine, but he needs to understand that the other side isn’t playing by the rules anymore. He needs to start arresting journalists.
This is a conspiracy against the government.

    YellowSnake in reply to Matt_SE. | August 5, 2017 at 12:34 am

    “other side isn’t playing by the rules anymore” Where have you been for the last 8 years? I doubt I could find a democrat who doesn’t think that dems have been bringing knives to gun fights.

    You guys delayed a Supreme Court Nomination for a year simply because you could.

    As Cole Porter put it:

    In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
    Was looked on as something shocking.
    But now, God knows,
    Anything goes.

      JoAnne in reply to YellowSnake. | August 6, 2017 at 10:30 am

      What is your point? Obama appointed two justices, he was a lame duck in his last year – do you really think the Dems would have done anything differently?

      You snipe just to annoy with no real thought behind it. You’re not interesting or informative, just tiresome.

      Milhouse in reply to YellowSnake. | August 6, 2017 at 12:34 pm

      There is no rule, and never has been a rule, that the senate majority must vote on a president’s nomination. The senate is master of its own agenda, and has no obligation to debate something just because the president wants it to.

      Since the majority in this case was already determined not to consent to whomever the president nominated for that position, and had explicitly told the president not to bother it with any nominations because it would not be consenting to them, there was simply no point in scheduling hearings and votes; it would have been an utter waste of time and money, a mere exercise in public theater. And theater is exactly what the president wanted, when he nominated someone he did not himself support for the position, for the sole purpose of twitting the senate majority.

      Note very well that this is fundamentally different from a minority holding up business that the majority supports. That is an act of piracy, the very definition of a filibuster. What happened to the Garland nomination was not a filibuster but the majority correctly asserting its privileges.

Sam in Texas | August 4, 2017 at 9:47 pm

I’m sorry. I don’t believe this:

“Washington, D.C., and 49 other states have shield laws that protect a reporter from giving up confidential sources.”

    Whether those 49 states plus DC do or don’t have shield laws is a moot point, since those are state level laws that don’t apply at the Federal level – not even in DC.

People who have played ‘throw our ca-ca’ with you have reported suspicious activity when you kept score.