A new FBI unit tasked with countering “media leak threats” was established last year under President Donald Trump, TYT reported on Tuesday.
Internal documents the outlet obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the brand new division was put together in November 2017.
The documents, which had been marked “SECRET” before being partially declassified in response to TYT’s FOIA request, allege a “rapid” rise in media leaks.
“By law, the FBI is the lead federal agency responsible for the investigation of violations of the espionage laws of the United States,” one document, bearing the subheader “Functions and Mission Statement” reads.
“The complicated nature of — and rapid growth in — unauthorized disclosure and media leak threats and investigations has necessitated the establishment of a new Unit,” the document continues.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had indicated a leaks unit was established as early as August 2017, though the documentation does not corroborate his statements.
Shortly after assuming office in February 2017, Sessions commenced a review of the Justice Department's leak investigations, concluding that there were too few investigations.
In November 2017, Sessions said that the Justice Department had increased its leak probes by 800%.
Media leak investigations spiked under the Obama administration, which controversially charged leakers under the World War I-era Espionage Act. Under Obama, the Justice Department prosecuted more than twice as many leakers under the Espionage Act as all previous administrations combined.