DOJ Officials Express An Interest In Prosecuting Leakers And Whistleblowers

from the taking-a-stand-against-accountability dept

We've already discussed a memo read by some FBI officials that supposedly was a record of an Oval Office conversation between former FBI Director James Comey and Donald Trump apparently contains the president asking after the possible prosecution of journalists for publishing leaks. Hearsay squared, but still in line with Trump's antagonistic relationship with free speech.

There's not much popular support for treating journalists like criminals just for doing their job, but there appears to be plenty of administrative support for the idea. Comey claimed he wouldn't go after journalists for publishing leaks -- something he said with one side of his mouth while redefining journalism to exclude Julian Assange and Wikileaks, which the DOJ is apparently considering pursuing charges against.

But that's not the extent of the new administration's Bullets For Messengers™ program. As Betsy Woodruff reports for The Daily Beast, the DOJ is looking to crack down on leaks, leakers, and -- given its inability/unwillingness to subject itself to accountability -- whistleblowers.

Under intense pressure from the White House, the Justice Department is prepared to aggressively prosecute government officials who leak classified information. Justice Department officials told The Daily Beast that targeting leakers will be a priority during Jeff Sessions’ time as attorney general—a posture that will hearten national security hawks, while concerning advocates of whistleblower protections.

“As the Attorney General has said, the Department of Justice takes unlawful leaks very seriously and those that engage in such activity should be held accountable,” an official told The Daily Beast.

Officials may not directly state they're going after whistleblowers, but the FBI and DOJ have never shied away from direct retaliation against those bringing complaints up through the proper channels. The Obama DOJ was particularly unfriendly to whistleblowers, which means many in the DOJ are already well-trained in the art of hunting down leakers.

This new DOJ also makes it clear it will only tolerate leaking it approves of.

“The fact that the president shared classified information with a foreign government official, in and of itself, is classified,” a former senior intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “So whoever was trying to burn him for thinking he’s doing something wrong actually is the only one that committed a crime here.”

The president possibly exposing an undercover ISIS source to Russian officials? Not a big deal. Someone talking to the press about it? Round up a grand jury! New DOJ boss Jeff Sessions is tough on crime -- all of it. He's just as unhappy as Trump that US press outlets continue to be fed inside info directly contradicting White House statements, stances, and tweets, often within minutes of the president or his press secretary opening their mouths.

“I expect we’ll get to the bottom of this,” Sessions replied. “This is not right. We’ve never seen this kind of leaking. It’s almost as if people think they have a right to violate the law, and this has got to end, and probably it will take some convictions to put an end to it.”

If there are internal memos related to the DOJ's full court press on leaking, expect it to be leaked. As tough as the DOJ may want to be on leakers and whistleblowers, a president who's failed to earn the respect and trust of so many of the people he supposedly leads only encourages the sort of behavior we're witnessing. No doubt the president and the DOJ would like to get some heads on pikes ASAP to staunch the bleeding, but there's no way this can be done without doing tremendous harm to legitimate whistleblowers and the very important individuals who could only be heard by operating outside a deliberately broken system.

Filed Under: doj, free speech, journalism, leaks, prosecution, whistleblowing


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  1. identicon
    AC, 26 May 2017 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re:

    "Oh. You're one of those poor saps who thinks you can't yell fire in a crowded theater. I have some unfortunate news for you:"

    Nothing at all in that article about a government employee disclosing classified information. Yelling fire in an crowded theater *isn't* protected by the first Amendment and neither is committing a crime by releasing classified information. You are the poor sap who seems to conflate having an opinion and being persecuted/prosecuted for it by the government(not happening in this case) and being a government employee and breaking the law by leaking classified information (which is).

    "So, were you for or against Wikileaks sharing the DNC and Podesta emails?"

    Kind of off topic (again, we're not talking about the press publishing leaked information - that IS covered by the First Amendment) but I'd have to say that I don't disapprove of publishing awful nasty crap being done behind the scenes by EITHER political party. I still think it's illegal for a government employee to leak, and it's certainly illegal for anyone to hack in and steal information. Snowden did the citizens of the US a favor too - but he's still guilty. Should he be punished? Different topic. That's what pardons are for.

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