FBI General Counsel James A. Baker allegedly is under an ongoing criminal investigation for supposedly leaking classified information pertaining to a U.S. surveillance program, according to a Circa report published Friday night.
Several U.S. government officials with knowledge of the purported investigation told Circa reporter Sara Carter that Baker is under investigation concerning details divulged in an October 2016 Reuters report. Although Carter could not reach Baker for comment and neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice would confirm or deny the report, a Justice Department official told Circa that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to make an announcement next week regarding the “stepped-up efforts on leak investigations” taking place under President Donald Trump’s administration.
“Well, what we know so far is that [Baker] is under a criminal, allegedly under a criminal investigation with the Department of Justice. Where it goes from there, whether the FBI goes public with this or the Department of Justice goes forward with this later, I think all depends on what’s discovered and what’s found,” Carter said Saturday on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends Weekend.”
“And I think … it goes to the bigger picture of leakers, right? I mean of this culture of leaking information which is national security-related or whether it be on the president or somebody else,” Carter continued. “I mean, this culture of leaking is a problem right now and I think that’s why we are seeing so many people talking about it. It affects the national security of our country, and it affects our Republican generals there.”
Ever since Trump began his presidency in January, his administration has been plagued by a continuous deluge of leaks from both within the White House and from within the government agencies. Trump has repeatedly lashed out about the leaks and called upon Sessions to crack down on those that undermine his administration, endanger U.S. national security concerns, and hamstring counterintelligence investigations.
The October 2016 Reuters report unveiled how Yahoo Inc. “secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.” The program, reportedly built at the government’s classified request, allowed the National Security Agency and the FBI to scan millions of Yahoo Mail accounts and sift through “upstream data.” This “upstream” collection allowed the U.S. intelligence agencies to request customer data from companies to help boost their investigations.
“Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time,” Reuters reported. “It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.”
A “senior government official” told Circa that Baker allegedly disapproved of the Yahoo surveillance program and acted to stall Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants allowing such monitoring and leaked information unveiled in the Reuters report.
“Under Baker, many FISA warrants languished for both counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations,” the source told Carter.
An intelligence official added that when programs such as Yahoo’s are illegally declassified, it “gives the enemy an upper hand and hinders U.S. national security.”
“This looks like it’s going to be a bigger, bigger issue for the DOJ, right? And within the week we’re expecting Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come out and to make a big announcement,” Carter said on “Fox & Friends Weekend.” “It will be a general announcement. I don’t think it’s going to focus specifically on Baker or any specific topic, but it will focus on the general progress of the Department of Justice looking into leak investigations.”
Baker, who had been appointed as FBI general counsel by former FBI Director James Comey in 2014, also teaches national security law at Harvard University Law School. He served as a federal prosecutor during former President Bill Clinton’s administration and served as both deputy counsel and counsel for the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review at the Department of Justice. During the course of his career, Baker received the CIA’s George H.W. Bush Award for Excellence in counterterrorism and received the NSA’s Intelligence Under Law Award, the NSA Director’s Distinguished Service Medal, and the DOJ’s Edmund J. Randolph Award.
Should Baker be convicted of the alleged leaks, he would receive “severe punishment,” Carter said.
“I mean, the leaking of classified information is a felony. And it would require jail time, and he would also be stripped of his license,” Carter told “Fox & Friends Weekend.” “This is a highly decorated man. Remember, these are just allegations right now. There’s an ongoing investigation. He’s been with the NSA, the CIA. He’s received some of the highest awards of merit.”
Carter said Thursday on Fox News’ “Hannity” that if these allegations prove to be true, “it is going to be devastating for the FBI, whose morale has already been shook up.”
“And I’ve spoken to sources that say even within the FBI right now, within the bureau, I mean they’re scouring through everything. They’re looking for leakers. They really want a clean house,” Carter added.
Trump has increased his pressure on Sessions to deal more effectively with the onslaught of leaks and punish those who compromise U.S. national security.
“I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies,” Trump said Tuesday. “These are intelligence agencies. We cannot have that happen.”
Sessions said that the department is becoming “more aggressive” under his direction because “people need to go to jail.”
“I have not been happy with the past prosecutions and investigations of criminal leaks,” Sessions told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Thursday. “We’ve already taken a number of steps … We’ll have a press conference next week about it, but we already have multiples, numbers of prosecutions compared to last year at this time.”
“We’re stepping up those cases. It cannot continue,” Sessions added.