Leak inquiries reveal wide US govt net

Even before the FBI conducted 550 interviews of officials and seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters in a leak investigation connected to a 2012 article about a Yemen bomb plot,agents had sought the same reporters’ sources for two other articles about terrorism.

Written by New York Times | Washington | Published: May 28, 2013 3:34 am

Even before the FBI conducted 550 interviews of officials and seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters in a leak investigation connected to a 2012 article about a Yemen bomb plot,agents had sought the same reporters’ sources for two other articles about terrorism.

In a separate case last year,FBI agents asked the White House,the Defence Department and intelligence agencies for phone and email logs showing exchanges with an NYT reporter writing about computer attacks on Iran. Agents grilled officials about their contacts with him,two people familiar with the investigation said.

And agents tracing the leak of a highly classified CIA report on North Korea to a Fox News reporter pulled electronic archives showing which officials had gained access to the report and had contact with the reporter on day of the leak.

The emerging details of these and other cases show just how wide a net the administration cast in its investigations into disclosures of government secrets,querying hundreds of officials across the federal government and even some of their foreign counterparts.

The result has been an unprecedented six prosecutions and many more inquiries using aggressive legal and technical tactics. A vast majority of those questioned were cleared of any leaking.

On Thursday,President Barack Obama ordered a review of Justice Department procedures for leak investigations,saying he was concerned that such inquiries chilled journalists’ ability to hold the government accountable.

Some officials are now declining to take calls from certain reporters,concerned that any contact may lead to investigation. Some complain of being taken from their offices to endure uncomfortable questioning. And the government officials typically must pay for lawyers themselves,unlike reporters for large news organizations whose companies provide legal representation.

Officials who have been questioned in the current investigations are reluctant to describe their experiences. Ethan Bronner,Charlie Savage & Scott Shane

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