Former F.B.I. Agent Pleads Guilty In Leak

Former FBI agent Donald Sachtleben has agreed to plead guilty to the unauthorized disclosure of secret government information about a bomb plot, the Justice Department says.

A retired F.B.I. agent, a former bomb technician named Donald Sachtleben, has agreed to plead guilty to leaking classified information, according to court papers filed by the Justice Department on Monday. Sachtleben spoke to the Associated Press last year about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen and was identified after federal investigators obtained phone call logs of Associated Press reporters. The former agent has agreed to serve 43 months in prison in addition to another 97 months on an unrelated child pornography charge. and is the eighth case of a leak-related prosecution under President Obama's administration.

The Washington Post reports:

"A former FBI bomb technician who later worked as a contractor for the bureau has agreed to plead guilty to disclosing national defense information to the Associated Press about a disrupted terrorist plot to bring down a civilian airliner headed for the United States, the Justice Department said Monday.

Officials described the disclosure as one of the most serious national security leaks in history, saying it came in the middle of a sensitive intelligence operation. The case led to the Justice Department’s controversial decision to secretly subpoena two months’ worth of phone records from the Associated Press.

Donald John Sachtleben, 55, of Carmel, Ind., provided information to an AP reporter about the disruption of the plot by the Yemen-based terrorist organization al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Sachtleben also told the news agency that the United States had recovered a bomb during the investigation of the April 2012 plot and that it was being examined at an FBI lab in Quantico where he sometimes worked, according to Justice Department officials and court documents filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Administration officials and others later described the device as extremely difficult to detect and said it was built by the Yemeni group’s master bombmaker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri."

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news.

In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.

"There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know," Pruitt said.

Sachtleben's case is the eighth case of a leak-related prosecution during President Obama's administration.

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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