SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 102
December 18, 2009

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

FBI LINGUIST LEAKED CLASSIFIED DOCS TO BLOGGER

An Israeli-American attorney who worked for the FBI as a translator pled guilty yesterday to unlawfully disclosing five classified FBI documents to an unidentified blogger last April, who then published information from the documents on his blog, the Justice Department announced.

In a signed plea agreement, Shamai Leibowitz stipulated that he had "knowingly and willfully caused five documents, which were classified at the Secret level and contained classified information concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States, to be communicated... to a person not entitled to receive classified information ('Recipient A'). Recipient A was the host of a public web log ('blog') available to anyone with access to the Internet."

"Recipient A then published on the blog information derived from the classified documents provided to Recipient A by Leibowitz. As a result of these disclosures, intelligence sources and methods related to these documents were compromised," the plea agreement said.

Recipient A was not named, and has evidently not been charged with any misconduct. Leibowitz was charged under 18 U.S.C. 798, which prohibits unauthorized disclosure of communications intelligence information.

"The willful disclosure of classified information to those not entitled to receive it is a serious crime," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. "Todayís guilty plea should serve as a warning to anyone in government who would consider compromising our nationís secrets."

Prosecutors credited Mr. Leibowitz for his "apparent prompt recognition and affirmative acceptance of personal responsibility for his criminal conduct" as well as his "timely notification of his intention to plead guilty." Based on those and other factors, they proposed a sentence of 20 months imprisonment.

Though it has no bearing on the case, Mr. Leibowitz happens to be the grandson of Yeshayahu Leibowitz (1903-1994), a renowned Israeli scientist, orthodox Jewish philosopher, polemicist and political activist.

The case was first reported in "Israeli lawyer & peacenik guilty of leaking FBI secrets" by Josh Gerstein in Politico, December 17:

Laura Rozen, also writing in Politico, provided additional background and proposed speculatively that Leibowitz's disclosures were behind an April 16, 2009 story in the New York Times on NSA's "overcollection" of domestic intelligence.

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

See also "Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works" by Steven Aftergood, Yale Law and Policy Review, vol. 27, no. 2, Spring 2009:
      http://www.fas.org/sgp/eprint/aftergood.pdf

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