A former FBI agent was sentenced to more than three years in prison for disclosing confidential national security information about a foiled bomb plot to an Associated Press reporter.
Former FBI explosives specialist Donald Sachtleben, who was also sentenced to eight years in prison in a separate child pornography case, pleaded guilty in September in both cases.
Sachtleben, 55, got a combined total of 140 months in prison — 97 months in the child pornography case and a consecutive 43 months in the national security case.
President Barack Obama’s administration came under sharp criticism from lawmakers and media rights groups over its probe of the leak, after investigators confiscated phone records of reporters at the Associated Press.
But federal prosecutors said the case underlined the government’s determination to hold leakers accountable for spilling secrets.
Sachtleben was charged after investigators traced to his laptop about 30 sexually explicit images and video files of youths generally below the age of 12.
According to prosecutors, Sachtleben “avidly traded in child pornography,” using his email accounts to distribute the files to at least 12 other people around the world between September 2011 and his arrest on May 11, 2012.
The national security leak disclosed a CIA operation that disrupted a plot in 2012 by Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen to detonate a bomb on an aeroplane bound for the United States.
Sachtleben revealed the information just nine days before his arrest in Carmel, Indiana.
“Defendant Donald John Sachtleben betrayed this nation and the most vulnerable members of our society,” an October court filing said.
Sachtleben had worked for the FBI from 1983 until 2008 as a bomb technician and, after his retirement, was hired as a security contractor.
In investigating the leak, authorities obtained two months of phone records of AP reporters and editors at several offices, covering 20 separate phone lines, defence lawyers said.
No reporter was charged in the Sachtleben case or in another investigation of a leak about North Korea.
But rights groups and news outlets have blasted what they called heavy-handed tactics by investigators and warned the administration’s tough line could have a chilling effect on journalistic inquiry.
Although Obama had promised openness when he entered office, his administration has pursued an unprecedented crackdown on leaks from government employees, attempting more prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous administrations.
US Army Private Chelsea Manning, sentenced as Bradley in August before changing gender identity, got 35 years in prison for passing a trove of classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
John Kiriakou, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was charged with leaking secrets after he gave an interview to ABC television describing the use of waterboarding in interrogations of terror suspects under the George W. Bush administration.
He pleaded guilty in 2012 to disclosing the name of a covert CIA officer and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Sachtleben’s sentencing also serves as a warning to intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who has been charged with espionage and condemned for his dramatic disclosures on US electronic surveillance.
Copyright (2013) AFP. All rights reserved.
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