The New York Times reports: Even before the F.B.I. 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, F.B.I. agents asked the White House, the Defense Department and intelligence agencies for phone and e-mail logs showing exchanges with a New York Times 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 C.I.A. 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 the day of the leak.
The emerging details of these and other cases show just how wide a net the Obama administration has 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 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. But he made no apology for the scrutiny of the many officials whose records were searched or who had been questioned by the F.B.I.
“He makes the case that we have 18-year-olds out fighting wars and acting like adults, and we have senior administration officials quoted in stories acting like children,” said Tommy Vietor, a former National Security Council spokesman. Mr. Obama and top administration officials say some leaks put Americans at risk, disrupted intelligence operations and strained alliances.
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. [Continue reading…]