August 20, 2019

FBI Agent Charged with Leaking Classified Docs to Expose ‘Systemic Biases’

A former FBI agent in Minneapolis, seeking to expose what his attorneys called “systemic biases” at the agency, was charged this week with illegally disseminating classified information, according to a report.

Terry J. Albury, who joined the FBI in 2000, allegedly sent two classified documents to a reporter at an unspecified national media organization, according to charging documents obtained by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

Albury’s prosecution comes months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration promised to cut down on leaks in the federal government.

The former agent was charged with two counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information. Prosecutors filed a felony information, which signals that Albury is expected to plead guilty.

One of the leaked documents reportedly pertains to the agency’s methods for assessing confidential informants, while the other relates to “threats posed by certain individuals from a particular Middle Eastern country,” according to the information.

FILE PHOTO: FBI Director Christopher Wray delivers remarks to a graduation ceremony at the FBI Academy on the grounds of Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia, U.S. December 15, 2017.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

FBI Director Christopher Wray was recently criticized by Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the agency’s ‘unacceptable’ pace.  (Reuters)

Albury shared the documents sometime between February 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017, prosecutors allege. He had most recently been assigned to counterterrorism operations at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Albury’s attorneys, JaneAnne Murray and Joshua Dratel, said in a statement that Albury served the U.S. with distinction domestically and in Iraq and “accepts full responsibility for the conduct set forth in the Information.

“We would like to add that as the only African-American FBI field agent in Minnesota, Mr. Albury’s actions were driven by a conscientious commitment to long-term national security and addressing the well-documented systemic biases within the FBI,” the attorneys added.

Prosecutors don’t name a reporter or news organization, but on Jan. 31 of last year, the Intercept posted a story about how the FBI assesses and manages informants.

“The use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers seeking to shed light on matters of vital public concern is an outrage.”

– The Intercept editor-in-chief Betsy Reed

The story references a secret document dated Aug. 17, 2011, that deals with assessing informants and recruiting them by identifying their “motivations and vulnerabilities.”

In a statement, the Intercept editor-in-chief Betsy Reed sharply criticized whistleblower prosecutions without specifically discussing Albury’s alleged involvement.

“We do not discuss anonymous sources,” Reed said. “The use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers seeking to shed light on matters of vital public concern is an outrage, and all journalists have the right under the First Amendment to report these stories.”

The Trump administration has made prosecuting government employees who leak sensitive information to the media a high priority.

Last year, Sessions pledged to clamp down on leaks, noting that the Justice Department had more than tripled the number of active leak investigations since President Barack Obama left office and that the FBI had created a new counterintelligence unit to focus on such cases.

He told members of Congress in November that the department was conducting 27 investigations into leaks of classified information.

The local FBI office referred questions to the Justice Department, which is handling the case. A spokesman with the Justice Department declined to comment beyond the charging documents.

The search warrant applications say the FBI linked references to secret documents in data requests filed by the Intercept to Albury’s activity on the bureau’s information systems.

The FBI also later identified 27 documents — 16 marked classified — that the Intercept published, and found that Albury had accessed more than two-thirds of them.

The charges filed Tuesday also allege that from April 7, 2017, to Aug. 28, 2017, Albury willfully kept a document about an online platform used by a specific terrorist group for recruitment, and failed to give it to an officer and federal employee who was entitled to it. / The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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