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FBI agent charged for leaking to news outlet

Issued: 2018-03-28

A former Minneapolis FBI agent who sought to expose what he called "systemic biases" within the bureau has been charged after allegedly leaking secret documents to a national news reporter, according to federal criminal charges filed in Minnesota this week.

The charges, filed by prosecutors for the Justice Department's National Security Division, are the first to come in Minnesota since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a broad crackdown on government leaks last year.

A two-page felony information, a charging document that typically signals an imminent guilty plea, outlines two counts filed against Terry James Albury of unlawfully disclosing and retaining national defense information.

Albury is accused of sharing a document on assessing confidential human sources — otherwise referred to as informants — and a document "relating to threats posed by certain individuals from a particular Middle Eastern country" with a reporter for a national media organization.

The second count charged against Albury alleged that he failed to turn over a document "relating to the use of an online platform for recruitment by a specific terrorist group" last year.

The charges do not name the reporter or news organization but specify that Albury allegedly possessed and shared the information between February 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017 — the same date that the Intercept published an entry to its "FBI's Secret Rules" series on how the bureau assesses potential informants. The report drew upon a secret document obtained by the Intercept that has the same publication date described in the charges against Albury.

According to previously sealed search warrant applications in the case executed last August, the FBI eventually linked references to secret documents in federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by the Intercept in March 2016 to Albury's activity on the FBI's information systems. The FBI also later identified 27 government documents — 16 of which were marked classified — published online by the outlet between April 2016 and February 2017 and found that Albury had accessed more than two-thirds of the files.

The FBI also identified a gray highlight across a row of text of the August 2011 document that is not present in the original document. Investigators also confirmed that Albury conducted "cut and paste" activity on that document and printed the copy a month before the Intercept's FOIA requests. He also allegedly accessed about a half dozen other secret documents referenced in the requests, at least one of which was later published online.

The FBI found that Albury continued cutting and pasting screen shots, printing some out and used a digital camera to photograph documents at his office at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where Albury had been assigned as a special agent working counterterrorism and other matters. According to the search warrant applications, security cameras at the office captured Albury taking the photos on three occasions last summer.

In a statement Wednesday, attorneys JaneAnne Murray and Joshua Dratel said Albury would be taking responsibility for the charges, while also hinting at his motivations.

"Terry Albury served the U.S. with distinction both here at home and abroad in Iraq," the statement read. "He accepts full responsibility for the conduct set forth in the Information. We would like to add that as the only African-American FBI field agent in Minnesota, Mr. Albury's actions were driven by a conscientious commitment to long-term national security and addressing the well-documented systemic biases within the FBI."

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