Administration Took Accidental Path to Setting Record for Leak Cases

Coverage Type: reporting
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20500, United States

Under fire from Republicans who claim that the White House has leaked classified information to make him look tough, President Obama has pointed to his administration’s unmatched record in prosecuting leaks. The statistics are certainly on his side: six leak-related prosecutions in Obama’s first term, compared with three under all previous presidents combined.

It is a record that has heartened security hawks while drawing criticism from advocates for whistle-blowing. But a closer look reveals a surprising conclusion: the crackdown has nothing to do with any directive from the President, even though he is now promoting his record as a political asset. Instead, it was unplanned, resulting from several leftover investigations from the Bush administration, a proliferation of e-mail and computer audit trails that increasingly can pinpoint reporters’ sources, bipartisan support in Congress for a tougher approach, and a push by the director of national intelligence in 2009 that sharpened the system for tracking disclosures.


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