Deputy AG Won’t Rule Out Considering Publishing of Classified Information a Crime for Journalists

By Melanie Arter | August 7, 2017 | 12:08pm EDT
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (Screenshot of Fox News video)

( – Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would not rule out the possibility that a reporter publishing classified information could be considered a crime.

Speaking to “Fox News Sunday,” Rosenstein told host Chris Wallace that “generally speaking, reporters who publish information are not committing a crime, but there might be a circumstance where they do.”

“You know, I haven’t seen any of those today, but I wouldn’t rule it out in the event that there were a case where a reporter was purposely violating the law, then they might be a suspect as well, but that’s not our goal here. Our goal is to prevent the leaks, and so, that’s what we’re after here. We haven’t revised a policy with regard to reporters,” he said.

Rosenstein said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is after the leakers, not the journalist.

“The attorney general has been very clear that we’re after the leakers, not the journalist. We’re after the people who are committing crime, and so, we’re going to devote the resources we need to identify who is responsible for those leaks and who has violated the law and hold them accountable,” Rosenstein said.

He called it “an overreaction” that the head of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of Press is saying that the attorney general’s decision to review the department’s policy when it comes to reporters and whether or not they will try to subpoena information from them to disclose their sources is “a dangerous threat to the freedom of the American people to know and understand what their leaders are doing and why.”

As previously reported, Sessions said Friday, “We respect the important role that the press place 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.”

During a press conference announcing efforts to crackdown on leaking of classified materials, Sessions said in the first six months of the Trump administration alone, the DOJ received “nearly as many criminal referrals involving unauthorized disclosures of classified information as we received in the last three years combined.”

When pressed to disclose the number of criminal referrals involving leaked classified information, the deputy attorney general said, “We don’t publicize the precise number of leaks, precise number of referrals. We’ve only talked about it in terms of the proportion, but that significant increase has necessitated an increase in resources.”

“And so, we have to reprioritize our cases within the national security division. We’re providing appropriate supervision at a high level. We’ve created a new unit within the FBI to focus on those leaks, and we’re going to devote whatever resources are necessary to get them under control,” he said.

“You say you can’t give the exact number. Can you give us a sense of scale?” Wallace asked.

“Well, that would give the number, Chris. I think we’ve been very clear about that. We’ve only talked about the proportion, a tripling of the number of referrals so far this year,” Rosenstein said.

“But I take it if it were 1-3, this wouldn’t be a serious problem that we’re talking about,” Wallace said.

“One to three wouldn’t be as many as we have, that’s true,” Rosenstein said.

“Some of the people who engaged in leaks, I don’t have to tell you, are not the so-called members of the deep state faceless bureaucrats inside intelligence agencies. They are White House officials. They are members of Congress. If you find any of them have committed these leaks, have disclosed classified information, will you prosecute?” Wallace asked.

“Chris, what we need to look at in every leak referral we get, we look at the fact and circumstances -- what was the potential harm caused by the leak, what were the circumstances? That’s more important to us than who it is, who is the leaker. So, if we identify somebody, no matter what their position is, if they violated the law, in that case, warrants prosecution, we’ll prosecute it,” Rosenstein said.

“Including White House officials and members of Congress?” Wallace asked.

“Including anybody who breaks the law,” Rosenstein said.

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