By: Kristina Wong
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Wednesday that a former high-level FBI official engaged in misconduct by having unauthorized contacts with the media, leaking sensitive information and accepting a gift from a member of the media.
Specifically, the IG said a former FBI Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) leaked to the media the existence of information that had been filed under seal in federal court; leaked “FBI law enforcement sensitive information to reporters on multiple occasions; and had “dozens” of unauthorized official contacts with the media in violation of FBI policy.
The announcement said the former DAD also accepted a ticket valued at approximately $225 to attend a media-sponsored dinner as a gift from a member of the media in violation of federal regulations and FBI policy.
The DOJ IG did not specify who the former official is, but said the matter was referenced on page 430 of its earlier review into whether the FBI acted improperly when conducting its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for government work.
Page 430 of the review said, “although FBI policy strictly limits the employees who are authorized to speak to the media, we found that this policy appeared to be widely ignored during the period we reviewed.”
We identified numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters. The large number of FBI employees who were in contact with journalists during this time period impacted our ability to identify the sources of leaks. For example, during the periods we reviewed, we identified dozens of FBI employees that had contact with members of the media.
In addition to the significant number of communications between FBI employees and journalists, we identified social interactions between FBI employees and journalists that were, at a minimum, inconsistent with FBI policy and Department ethics rules. For example, we identified instances where FBI employees received tickets to sporting events from journalists, went on golfing outings with media representatives, were treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and were the guests of journalists at nonpublic social events.
We will separately report on those investigations as they are concluded, consistent with the Inspector General (IG) Act, other applicable federal statutes, and OIG policy.
The IG said it initiated an investigation upon the receipt of information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which had alleged a then-DAD had “numerous contacts with members of the media in violation of FBI policy.”
“Additionally, it was alleged that the DAD may have disclosed law enforcement or other sensitive information to the media without authorization,” it said.
The DOJ IG’s announcement said prosecution of the DAD was “declined,” but a report is being provided to the FBI for appropriate action.
Attorney General William Barr said earlier this month at a Senate Judiciary Committee that there are “multiple criminal leak investigations underway.”
A previous IG report found that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had improperly leaked information to the Wall Street Journal confirming the existence of a Clinton Foundation investigation and then lied about it to former FBI Director James Comey and to investigators.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe days before he was set to retire. McCabe then started a GoFundMe account that raised at least $538,000.
Separately, Horowitz is also looking into whether the FBI acted improperly when investigating the Trump campaign in 2016. Barr has also appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John H. Durham to investigate the origins of the FBI’s investigation, including actions taken by the intelligence community.