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Tag: Leaks

John Kiriakou Plea Provokes Bitter Name-Calling Among Lawyers

By Jeff Stein
Spy Talk
WASHINGTON –– Is John Kiriakou a leaker or a patriotic whistleblower? Some rare, public name-calling among lawyers close to the case has broken out over the question.

Some of the ex-CIA man’s most fervent supporters claim the government is persecuting a patriot who helped expose CIA water boarding and the other “enhanced interrogation techniques” many people equate with torture.

The Justice Department begs to differ, of course. It argues the case is simple: Kiriakou “repeatedly” disclosed classified information and the names of covert CIA employees to journalists.

To read more clickhere.

FBI Probe of News Leaks Chills Relations with Media

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Media coverage of national security issues has become more difficult because employees at federal agencies have been afraid to speak out since the FBI began its hunt for leakers of sensitive information, the New York Times reports.

In one of the most thorough criminal investigations of intelligence disclosures in years, agents are questioning employees about leaks at the White House, the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Under President Obama’s administration, a record six leaks have been prosecuted.

“People are being cautious,” one intelligence official who, considering the circumstances, told the New York Times on condition of anonymity. “We’re not doing some of the routine things we usually do,” he added, referring to briefings on American security efforts and subjects in the news.

OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

Justice Department to Protect Against Leaks of Economic Data

 Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Worried about the impact on leaked, sensitive economic date, the FBI helped convince the U.S. Labor Department to tighten control of the information, Reuters reports.

A Labor Department study suggests some financial institutions had access to the agency’s press room before the economic reports were made public.

The information is important because it triggers swings in the stock and bond markets. Early access gives investors an edge, Reuters reported.

The Justie Department expressed concern about media agencies leaking the information to others before the information was to be released.

What Leaks Are Being Investigated, and What’s the Law on Leaks?

By Cora Currier
ProPublica

Recent scoops on national security have drawn the ire of Republican lawmakers, who have accused the Obama White House of leaking stories that burnish its image.

Obama responded that he has “zero tolerance” for leaks. He also said: “the writers of these articles have all stated unequivocally that they didn’t come from this White House. And that’s not how we operate.”

Someone somewhere has to be talking. Eric Holder said he’s assigned two U.S. attorneys to lead separate criminal investigations into “potential unauthorized disclosures.” Although the Justice Department won’t comment on which particular leaks are under investigation, unnamed officials (of course) have given reporters an idea.

Here’s what we know about leak investigations underway, the legality of leaks, and why leak prosecutions have been so rare.

Leak: Stuxnet

The New York Times reported that Obama ordered cyberattacks against Iran using Stuxnet, a computer virus the U.S. developed with Israel.

Sources: “participants” in the program and the attack, “members of the president’s national security team,” “current and former American, European and Israeli officials,” “one of [Obama’s] aides,” “a senior administration official.”

Investigation: The CIA reportedly sent a “crime report” to the Justice Department on the leak, and it is—as unnamed officials told Reuters—one of the two new investigations.

Leak: Foiled Underwear Bomber

The AP reported that the CIA foiled an Al-Qaeda plot out of Yemen to deploy a new kind of underwear bomb. Subsequent stories identified the role of a double-agent in stopping the plot.

Sources: “U.S. officials who were briefed on the operation.”

Investigation: The story also apparently prompted the CIA to send a “crime report” to the Justice Department, making it the second of the criminal inquiries mentioned by Holder.

 

Leak: The CIA’s drone program

The CIA’s drone program and targeted strikes have been written about for years, but recent articles from Newsweek and the New York Times got particular attention.

Sources: Too many to count. The Times article alone cites “three dozen of [Obama’s] current and former advisers.” Staffers from the House and Senate Intelligence committees—whose members have been among the most vocal in their concern about leaks—were cited just last week in an article on CIA drone strikes.

Investigation: Apparently not. The CIA reportedly hasn’t filed a report on drone leaks. Unnamed officials told Reuters one reason is that the CIA’s drone program has already been so openly discussed (this despite the government’s position in a separate case that the public doesn’t know the program exists). A Justice Department official recently noted to Congress that agencies sometimes don’t request an investigation because of “wide dissemination” of the leaked information.

What laws have leakers violated?

There is no single law making the disclosure of any information stamped “classified” a crime. The Espionage Act has been used, though rarely, to prosecute the leaking of national security information. There are also laws on computer hacking and a patchwork of other statutes.

Under most of these laws, it’s not enough to show that someone leaked—the government needs to prove they did so with intent or reason to believe that the information would hurt the U.S. or help a foreign country. Prosecutions of media leaks can also be hampered by First Amendment protections. (For an in-depth legal history, see this report from the Congressional Research Service). In some cases the government has decided not to prosecute because classified information would be confirmed or further revealed in the process.

From 2005 to 2009, the Justice Department got 183 “crime reports” on leaks from others in the government. Those notifications led to 26 investigations. (The Justice Department can also start an independent investigation without a referral.) Obama has already brought six prosecutions under the Espionage Act, though many of the investigations were initiated under George W. Bush. Email and other technological changes have also made it easier, in some cases, to track leakers.

So what comes next?

If the Justice Department decides not to prosecute, the case goes back to the agency that reported it, which could take administrative steps to punish a leaker, anything from a reprimand to stripping security clearance. Many Republican senators have said the Justice Department isn’t sufficiently independent to investigate potential White House leaks. Last week more than 30 senators sent a letter calling for a special counsel. They also suggested a congressional investigation could be launched.

In response to recent leaks, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper—who oversees the seventeen-agency intelligence community—issued a new directive asking the intelligence community’s inspector general to lead further investigations in some cases where the Justice Department decides not to. Such an investigation wouldn’t be a criminal inquiry, but it would reach beyond the scope of one agency. According to a DNI spokesman, the new investigative power wouldn’t apply to leaks from the White House or non-intelligence agencies—but if the investigation pointed to a leaker outside the intelligence community, “there would be a process to make sure the employer was notified and could take their own steps.”

The directive also mandates that intelligence employees getting periodic polygraph tests be asked if they’ve leaked information. Earlier this month, another DNI directive said personnel with access to national intelligence (and that’s a lot of people) would be “continually evaluated and monitored.”

Members of both the House and Senate have indicated they are working on legislation efforts to stem future leaks, but details are still unclear.

Aren’t leaks par for the course in Washington?

That’s part of the reason Congress hasn’t made a comprehensive law penalizing them. In 2000, Bill Clinton vetoed a provision making it easier to prosecute leaks, saying it was too broad and would have had a “chilling effect” on legitimate communications.

Administrative penalties and the tools for criminal investigations that the government already has are sufficient, maintains Elizabeth Goitein, of the Brennan Center for Justice. Goitein says that new crackdowns could have an effect on would-be whistleblowers. Intelligence employees are specifically exempt from the Whistleblower Protection Act, which gives most government employees protection from retaliation for reporting wrongdoing. The government’s position (as the DOJ told us in February) is that there are internal channels by which intelligence employees can report issues and the media is not one of them.

A spokesman for the DNI said that it was “the Director’s number-one concern” that his new anti-leak policies were implemented without affecting whistleblowers.

FBI Investigating Leaks to Media about Foiled al Qaeda Plot

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

Authorities are investigating leaks about a thwarted al Qaeda plot to blow up a U.S.-bound plane, reports the New York Times. FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Congressional Committee Wednesday that the the leaks are compromising national security efforts and would be pursued accordingly.

White House efforts to prosecute individuals who leak security information have found bipartisan support.

Said Senator Charles Grassley (R. Iowa), the ranking member of the committee, “Our international partners have been wary of cooperating with us in the wake of the WikiLeaks affair, in which our ability to keep their confidence was severely damaged.” For the record, the AP reportedly held the information about the foiled plot for two weeks before publishing in response to pleas from the White House and CIA.

Since his administration started cracking down on the sources of media leaks that potentially threaten national security: the NY Times reports there have been 6 prosecutions under Obama in contrast with only 3 ever before.

To read more click here.

Ex-CIA Officer Accused of Leaks Involving Terror Case

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former CIA officer, who helped track down and capture a big terror suspect, was charged Monday with repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities, the Justice Department said.

The charges were filed in fed court in Alexandria, Va., against former CIA agent John Kiriakou.

Kiriakou, 47, of Arlington, Va., was a CIA intelligence officer between 1990 and 2004, serving at headquarters and in various classified overseas assignments.

The government alleged in a four-count criminal complaint that Kiriakou made illegal disclosures about two CIA employees and their involvement in classified operations to two journalists on multiple occasions between 2007 and 2009.

In one instance, Kiriakou allegedly disclosed the name and contact information of an employee, identified in the complaint as “Officer B,” whose participation in an operation to capture and question terrorism subject Abu Zubaydah in 2002 was then classified, authorities said.

Authorities alleged that Kiriakou leaked the information prior to a June 2008 front-page story in The New York Times disclosing Officer B’s alleged role in the Abu Zubaydah operation.

“Safeguarding classified information, including the identities of CIA officers involved in sensitive operations, is critical to keeping our intelligence officers safe and protecting our national security,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement.

Read the press release

Read the NY Times story

 

Mueller Says Agents Are Helping in Probe into Leaks of Afghanistan Documents

Mueller testifying on Wed./ticklethewire.com photo

Mueller testifying on Wed./ticklethewire.com photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said Wednesday that his agents were assisting the Department of Defense in a controversial leak investigation into the ream of documents that were leaked on the Afghanistan war.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he also acknowledged a Justice Department probe into the possibility that agents around the country may have cheated on an open book test on FBI procedures. When pressed, he said it was unclear how many agents were involved, but the Associated Press reported that the Justice Department was looking at hundreds of agents to determine whether they cheated.

He also told Senators that that agents were not targeting people for investigations based on race, contrary to allegations by some groups.

In all, the exchanges between Mueller and Senators was amicable and several complimented him for being an outstanding public servant.

Mueller diplomatically sidestepped a question by Sen. Al Franken, who asked him his opinion on whether “enhanced” interrogation techniques in questioning terrorists was effective. Mueller simply said that he felt the FBI’s techniques — which do not involve torture — were effective.

Lance Armstrong’s Lawyer Complains of Leaks in L.A. Fed Grand Jury Probe

lance armstrongBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The lawyer for seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has sent off a letter to a Los Angeles federal prosecutor complaining about leaks in a grand jury probe into possible doping conspiracies involving Armstrong’s team, the Associated Press reported.

Lawyer Tim Herman wrote federal prosecutor Doug Miller of the L.A. Major Frauds Section, who is overseeing a grand jury probe, that it is “especially unfair to subject Mr. Armstrong to this continuing media blitz when he is in the middle of his final Tour de France”, according to the Associated Press.

“It is egregiously unfair and frustrating for New York reporters to have far more knowledge about this matter than Mr. Armstrong or his attorney,” Herman wrote, according to The AP.

The New York Daily News reported that the probe picked up in April when a former teammate of Armstrong admitted to doping and accused Armstrong and other riders and cycling officials of “complicity in performance-enhancing drug use and illegal blood transfusions.”

To read more click here.