A former FBI agent has been charged with leaking classified documents to a news website in the US.
Terry Albury, the only black FBI field agent in the state of Minnesota, faces two charges of “knowingly and wilfully” transmitting documents and information relating to national defence to a reporter for a national news organisation.
The charges are understood to relate to a series of stories published by The Intercept last January.
It included the entire handbook of the FBI’s ‘secret powers of surveillance’ that have evolved since the 9/11 terror attacks.
Albury was assigned as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport liaison working on counterterrorism matters.
His lawyers, JaneAnne Murray and Joshua Dratel, said in a statement that their client was “driven by a conscientious commitment to long-term national security and addressing the well-documented systemic biases within the FBI.”
They said Albury “accepts full responsibility” for the alleged conduct.
The Intercept reported the charges against Albury and published a statement from editor-in-chief Betsy Reed that said the news outlet does not discuss anonymous sources.
“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,” Reed said.
The Trump administration has promised to crack down on leaks that threaten national security after a series of embarrassing stories in the media.
Last year, a US intelligence contractor accused of illegally leaking a classified report on Russian interference in U.S. elections to The Intercept pleaded not guilty to an espionage offence.
Reality Leigh Winner was accused of passing the top secret National Security Agency report to The Intercept while working with Pluribus International Corp, which provides analytical services for U.S. defence and intelligence.