WASHINGTON — An FBI agent faced up to five years in prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty to providing classified documents to a reporter in the second leak case pursued by the Trump administration linked to The Intercept.
Terry Albury admitted in a Minnesota court to charges that he disclosed information on how federal agents assess and manage informants during 2016 and 2017.
The names of the reporter and media outlet which received the information were not given in court documents.
But specifics of the leaked materials and the timing laid out in the charges pointed to The Intercept, an online publication which frequently breaks important stories on national security.
The Intercept posted a story on January 31, 2017 on how the FBI woos and pressures immigrants, including Muslims, to become confidential sources, and then when finished sometimes hands them over to immigration authorities for deportation.
It was the second case pursued by the Trump administration against a leaker to The Intercept.
The online magazine has infuriated officials since it was created in 2014. Using top secret documents released by former government intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, it built a record of exposing secret activities of the US National Security Agency, including illegal surveillance.
In June 2017 the FBI arrested an NSA contract employee, Reality Winner, for leaking documents on Russian interference in US election systems. Her arrest was announced just hours after the Intercept posted a story based on the documents.
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have pledged to extend and toughen the previous Barack Obama administration’s crackdown on leakers, after a rash of losses and disclosures of national security materials.
The Justice Department is now investigating about 30 leak cases, including some involving materials provided to the media in the early months of the Trump administration that embarrassed or hurt the White House.
"As this prosecution demonstrates, we will not waver in our commitment to pursue and hold accountable government officials who violate their obligations to protect our nation’s secrets and break the laws they have sworn to uphold," said Assistant Attorney General John Demers in a statement.
Albury risked up to 10 years in prison, but prosecutors have asked for a maximum sentence of about five years on one count of making an unauthorised disclosure of national defense information and one count of unlawful retention of national defense information. — AFP