Sessions: US officials 'seriously ramping up efforts' against leakers

The Trump administration has been rocked by near-constant leaks in recent months

Sessions: US officials 'seriously ramping up efforts' against leakers

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Picture by: Andrew Harnik/AP/Press Association Images

The US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a crackdown on leaks of classified information, saying the country "must end the culture of leaks".

According to Mr Sessions, there are over three times more investigations into possible leaks than there were at the end of the Obama administration.

The Trump administration has faced a number of awkward leaks since taking office, detailing everything from internal White House conflicts to private meetings between President Trump and world leaders.

Only yesterday, The Washington Post published leaked transcripts of phone calls between Trump and the Australian and Mexico leaders.

The transcripts appeared to confirm an earlier leak describing a heated exchange between the US president and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The issue of leaks has been a frequent focus for President Trump on social media, and he has often criticised even confirmed stories as 'fake news':

The leaks have not been limited to the White House. In one high-profile case, a US intelligence agency contractor was arrested and charged with the alleged leaking of 'classified materials' to a media outlet.

Details of Reality Winner's arrest were announced shortly after news website The Intercept published and reported on a supposed classified NSA document, which appeared to show details of an attempted Russian cyberattack targeting US election officials in the days ahead of last year's presidential election.

In another case, crucial intelligence about the Manchester bombing was leaked to US media - an incident that led to the UK temporarily suspending intelligence sharing with the US.

"We are taking a stand"

In a press conference today, Mr Sessions announced that the US justice department is 'ramping up' efforts to tackle unauthorised disclosures to both the media and "foreign adversaries".

He argued: "I strongly agree with the President, and condemn in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks undermining the ability of our government in protect this country.

"Just yesterday we saw reports in the media about conversations the president had with foreign leaders. No-one is entitled to surreptitiously fight to advance their battles in the media by revealing sensitive government information."

He added: "In the first six months of this administration, the Department of Justice has received nearly as many criminal referrals involving unauthorised disclosures of classified information as we received in the previous three years combined."

"We are taking a stand - this culture of leaking must stop"

Mr Sessions said his department "has more than tripled the number of active leak investigations" compared to the end of the Obama administration, noting that officials are "seriously ramping up our efforts".

He insisted: "We will investigate and seek to bring criminals to justice. We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country any longer."

Mr Sessions' comments come after President Trump last week hit out at his own attorney general for being 'very weak' on intelligence leakers.

The two men are reported to have had a fraught relationship in recent weeks, with the US president having expressed frustration over Mr Sessions' earlier decision to recuse himself from any Russia investigations.