WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has charged a former Minnesota FBI agent with leaking classified information to the online news site The Intercept, Minnesota Public Radio reported on Wednesday.
It said Terry Albury was charged this week by the department’s National Security Division with two counts including “knowingly and wilfully” transmitting documents and information relating to national defence to a reporter for a national news organization.
Albury, the only African-American FBI field agent in Minnesota, was assigned as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport liaison working on counterterrorism matters, MPR News said.
Albury’s attorneys, 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.”
The attorneys said Albury “accepts full responsibility” for the alleged conduct.
The Justice Department and the FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A source familiar with the case told Reuters that The Intercept was the recipient of leaks for which Albury was charged.
In January 2017, The Intercept published a series titled “The FBI’s Secret Rules” based on Albury’s leaked documents, which show the depth and broad powers of the FBI expansion since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and its recruitment efforts, according to MPR News.
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.
Last year a U.S. 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.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year announced a crackdown on leaks, after a series of embarrassing revelations from President Donald Trump’s White House.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Additional reporting by Eric Walsh; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Leslie Adler