(UPI) — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday the Department of Justice is “reviewing” media subpoena policies for reporters who cite anonymous sources in leaking classified information.
Sessions said at a news conference that federal law enforcement agencies will ramp up efforts to stem the tide of information leaks emanating from within the Trump administration, a fact that President Donald Trump has vented about publicly.
“One of the things we are doing is reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas,” Sessions said. “We respect the important role the press plays and will give them respect. It is not unlimited. They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance the press’ role with protecting our national security.”
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who appeared with Sessions at Friday’s news conference, said the government is “prepared to take all necessary steps” to identify and prosecute leakers.
Sessions and Coats left the conference, ignoring a reporter’s question: “Is the administration going to prosecute journalists?”
Sessions said the Justice Department has tripled the number of leak investigations since Trump took office — but because reporters typically refuse to reveal sources of a leaks, the cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute.
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In the past, the department has been reluctant to demand reporters reveal an anonymous source of disclosed classified information. However, when subpoenaed to testify, reporters face the possibility of being jailed for contempt of court if they refuse to identify a requested source.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for 85 days in 2005 after refusing to divulge the source of a classified leak that revealed the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose husband had drawn the ire of officials in former President George W. Bush’s administration.
Miller was released from federal prison only after her source, later confirmed as I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney, identified himself. Libby was subsequently sentenced to federal prison for violating federal law by revealing classified information.
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