The Justice Department’s counterespionage section opens 25 to 30 investigations every year into media leaks of classified information, but most never result in criminal charges. In fact, in most cases, the leaker is never identified.
In June 2000, then-Attorney General Janet Reno told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that FBI agents have conducted hundreds of interviews focusing on the people who have access to leaked classified information. That typically turns out to be a very large pool of people, she said.
“Because of the enormous difficulty of conducting leak investigations, almost all leak investigations are closed without our having identified a suspect,” Reno told lawmakers.
Nothing much has changed.
A senior Justice Department official, who asked not to be identified, described the current number of criminal charges as being “very small.”
Officials could not provide a specific number or cite a recent case where the criminal charges had been filed because of a classified leak.
Meanwhile, Democratic critics on Capitol Hill continued to call for an independent special counsel to be appointed. They charge that the close relationship between Attorney General John Ashcroft and President Bush prevents the Justice Department from conducting a tough and impartial probe.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday questioned why the White House waited until Tuesday morning to issue a memo instructing staff to preserve all relevant documents, even though they were informed of the criminal probe Monday night.