By: Kristina Wong
President Trump has faced seven times more leaks during the first 126 days of his administration than the previous two administrations. That figure includes many leaks from the intelligence community that were aimed at embarrassing Trump but have damaged U.S. national security, according to a new Senate report.
“Since President Trump assumed office, our nation has faced an unprecedented wave of potentially damaging leaks of information,” said the report from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The report showed that the Trump administration faced 125 leaks potentially damaging to national security in 126 days — a “conservative estimate,” it noted.
A more narrow search, confined to five major outlets, showed the Trump White House faced 62 leaks, compared to eight under the Obama administration, and nine under the George W. Bush administration.
“Under President Trump’s predecessors, leaks of national security information were relatively rare, even with America’s vibrant free press,” the report found.
The report warned that the leaks have “real world consequences for national security” and recommended that federal law enforcement officials investigate the leaks:
These leaks do not occur in a vacuum. They can, and do, have real world consequences for national security. To ensure the security of our country’s most sensitive information, federal law enforcement officials ought to thoroughly investigate leaks of potentially sensitive information flowing at an alarming rate.
The report also noted: “All such revelations are potential violations of federal law, punishable by jail time.”
Although a “patchwork” of laws exists to address leaks, the Espionage Act remains the primary law addressing them, the report said.
“Violations of the Espionage Act are punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, as are violations of a separate statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(1), which prohibits the communication of classified information retrieved from a computer if the information ‘could be used to the injury of the United States,'” it said.
The report noted that arguments often used to justify leaks — that they are intended to bring light to potential illegality, unwise policies, or concerns about the president’s temperament — have no legal basis.
No accused leaker has ever been acquitted based on an argument that the public interest was so great that it justified a leak, the report said.
The report said a review of the sources cited in news reports containing those leaks indicates they are “coming from across the government” — with some “clearly from within the intelligence community.”
The report concludes that the balance between a free press and national security is “now under threat.” The report concludes:
“President Trump and his administration have faced apparent leaks on nearly a daily basis, potentially imperiling national security at a time of growing threats at home and abroad.
“The commander-in-chief needs to be able to effectively manage U.S. security, intelligence operations and foreign relations without worrying that his most private meetings, calls and deliberations will be outed for the entire world to see.
“As [national security lawyer Mark] Zaid concludes: ‘One day history will judge the consequences of these actions.'”