How Do Leak Investigations Work?

Selina MacLaren | News | August 8, 2017
August 8, 2017

On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced efforts to a crack down on unauthorized disclosures to the news media, citing an uptick in "leaks" investigations and a plan to revisit policies on obtaining journalists' records.  President Trump, who has routinely castigated disclosures to the news media, praised the threatened crackdown in a tweet:

Grand jury secrecy comes at a cost

Tom Isler | Secret Courts | News | January 13, 2015
January 13, 2015

Two new lawsuits are challenging the continued secrecy of the grand jury investigations related to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. The suits demonstrate just how secret the information gathered by a grand jury is, while also making a compelling case for the public interest in greater access.

Journalists, technologists discuss encryption at conference on digital security after Snowden

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Newsgathering | News | November 10, 2014
November 10, 2014

Update: The complete conference video is now online.

“Edward Snowden is not a model for journalism,” James Risen said at a conference on digital security practices last Friday. “If it is, we’re going to have a lot of lawyers — and a lot of problems.”

From left to right, James Risen of The New York Times, Julia Angwin of ProPublica, Dana Priest of The Washington Post, and Christopher Soghoian of the ACLU discuss the use of encryption by journalists.

Free press groups petition Attorney General on behalf of journalist James Risen

Emily Grannis | Newsgathering | News | August 14, 2014
August 14, 2014

More than 100,000 people, including 20 Pulitzer Prize winners, signed a petition submitted to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder today urging the administration to rethink its policy of subpoenaing journalists to reveal their sources.

Seven representatives of free press organizations announced the delivery of the petition at the National Press Club this afternoon and called on the administration to drop its threatened subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen.

Risen has been fighting since 2007 to protect a confidential source he used in writing a book about the Central Intelligence Agency, and he joined the panel at the press conference today.

Presidential review group urges reform of FISA Court and end to bulk metadata collection

Jamie Schuman | Newsgathering | News | December 18, 2013
December 18, 2013

A group appointed by President Obama to review U.S. surveillance policies recommended today that the government end bulk storage of telephone metadata, and, instead, contact private companies directly in the individual cases that it needs that information.

The panel also called on the government to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by creating a public interest advocate to represent privacy and civil liberties interests; instituting declassification reviews to increase the court's transparency; and dividing the power to appoint judges to the FISC among the Supreme Court justices. The group also recommended that the government not undermine efforts to create encryption standards.

Whistleblowers and journalists emphasize necessity of secure communication at National Press Club panel

Amy Zhang | Reporter's Privilege | News | July 26, 2013
July 26, 2013

New York Times journalist James Risen moderated a discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that featured a panel of known leakers who shared advice with journalists on protecting their notes and sources.

Diverting the avalanche of leaks: a (temporary) win for responsible news coverage

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AP Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., center, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is flanked by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., right, and, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., left, as they face reporters on Capitol Hill after a meeting on national security leaks in Washington, D.C.

Deciding when to publish

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AP Photo by Dennis Cook

George Freeman, a former New York Times attorney, confers with journalist Judith Miller in 2005 prior to her testifying in favor of reporters’ privilege legislation on Capitol Hill.

The six federal employees charged under the Espionage Act

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AP Photo by Timothy Jacobsen

Thomas Drake

The Obama Administration has indicted six government employees under the 1917 Espionage Act for sharing classified information with the press — more than all previous administrations combined. However, all of the employees whose cases have seen the inside of the courtroom have had all or part of the Espionage Act charges against them dropped.

Obama administration plugs up leaks

Kiriakou is first CIA agent jailed for speaking to press
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AP Photo by Jacquelyn Martin

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou leaves federal court in Alexandria, Va.

In 2009, President Obama promised to create a more transparent, whistleblower-friendly government.

But the reality is that federal employees who have given government secrets to news media organizations in recent years have ended up being prosecuted as leakers.