US Justice Department steps up crackdown on leaks

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Washington, Aug 5 (IANS) The US Department of Justice has stepped up crackdown on leaks as the White House grows angrier over unauthorized disclosures.

The department has more than tripled the number of active leak probes since January, compared to the number pending at the end of the last administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a press conference on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Sessions’ remarks followed a series of breaking reports about US President Donald Trump’s administration and his presidential campaign last year on a basis of unnamed sources, which have embarrassed the White House.

There had been a “dramatic growth” in recent months of unauthorized disclosures to the media and “even foreign adversaries,” Sessions said. “No one is entitled to surreptitiously fight to advance battles in the media by revealing sensitive government information.”

The top prosecutor argued that no government can be effective “when its leaders cannot discuss sensitive matters in confidence or talk freely in confidence with foreign leaders,” a day after transcript of rancorous phone calls between Trump and leaders of Australia and Mexico were published by the Washington Post.

While revealing the department has already charged four people with unlawfully disclosing classified material or with concealing contacts with federal officers, Sessions warned would-be leakers against any attempts to make disclosures.

He also gave a warning to the press, adding that the department is review polices affecting media subpoenas.

“We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited.” Sessions said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity.”

Last week, Trump denounced Sessions as “very weak” on leaks from intelligence agencies.

“I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level,” Trump said.

Pressure has been piling up on Sessions after an apparent, repeated frustration by Trump over his job to stop leaks, raising possibility of the firing of the attorney general by the president.

But newly-appointed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly told Sessions that his job was safe despite a chaotic shake-ups in the Trump administration.

–IANS

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