WASHINGTON (AFP) - A former FBI agent who leaked internal documents showing how the agency used racial profiling in counter-terror investigations was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday (Oct 18).
In the third case this week to underscore the Trump administration's determined crackdown on media leaks, Terry Albury, a 17-year FBI veteran and son of an Ethiopian refugee, was ordered to prison for 48 months by a Minnesota judge after pleading guilty in the case.
"We are conducting perhaps the most aggressive campaign against leaks in department history," said Attorney-General Jeff Sessions in a statement.
"Crimes like the one committed by the defendant in this case will not be tolerated - they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and punished."
Albury was a special agent in the FBI Minneapolis field office in 2016 and 2017 when he leaked the agency's Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide to The Intercept.
The guide showed how the agency can use racial and religious profiling to target investigations, bend rules to infiltrate activist groups, and spy on journalists.
Albury's lawyers said that, as the only black field agent in the Minneapolis office, he took note of racist attitudes inside his squad and how these made it more difficult to gain the trust of the large Somali-American community in the area - which had sent a number of young men to join terror groups Al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as fighters.
Albury's lawyer insisted that he was not seeking to divulge secrets but to advance discourse "about how to maintain the delicate balance between freedom and security".
"He was endeavouring to resolve what for him became an insurmountable moral conflict between his role as an FBI agent sworn to uphold the written law and his personal commitment to social justice and human rights," they said.
Prosecutors, however, suggested that Albury had a vendetta against his employers and would have continued to leak secret documents.
The sentence was handed down one day after federal agents announced the arrest of a Treasury official for leaking documents to BuzzFeed, an Intercept competitor, on money transfers involving key figures in the Russia election collusion probe.
And on Monday, a US Senate staffer arrested this year over alleged leaks of classified information to his reporter girlfriend pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents.
His leaks, too, involved matters related to the Russia collusion investigation, which has seen several former aides of President Donald Trump convicted or plead guilty.
Nearly one year ago, Mr Sessions said the Justice Department had 27 open leak investigations.