US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced four people have been charged over leaks as he launched a crackdown on disclosure of classified material.
The announcement comes after months of embarrassing disclosures about the Trump administration, which spurred President Trump to call on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department to get tougher on leaks.
Speaking at a news conference, Sessions said he condemned "in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks" that undermine the ability of government to protect the country.
"This culture of leaking must stop", Sessions said.
"I've listened to our career investigators, FBI agents...and our prosecutors about how to most successfully investigate and prosecute these matters", Sessions said.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.
Sessions said his Justice Department has already tripled the number of active leak investigations over the previous administration, and that the FBI would create a new counterintelligence unit to manage the cases.
Sessions on Friday said that "no government can be effective when its leaders cannot discuss freely with foreign leaders".
His Justice Department announcement comes amid news reports involving the Trump campaign and White House that relied on classified information. We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect.
"We are prepared to take all necessary steps to one identify individuals who illegally expose and disclose classified information", said Coats, who argued they have put American operatives, troops, and sensitive programs at risk.
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"We must balance the press role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in the intelligence community, the armed forces, and all law-abiding Americans", he said.
Director of national intelligence Dan Coats also spoke at the presser, and warned people within the intel community to use the "several" legitimate channels for raising concerns, either with leadership or with Congress.
"I've listened to our career investigators, FBI agents and others, and of prosecutors about how to most successfully investigate and prosecute these matters", Sessions said.
"We will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law and you will not be happy with the result", he said.
Coats gave a warning to anyone who possesses classified information who might be thinking about leaking that information.
"No one is entitled to surreptitiously fight to advance battles in the media by revealing sensitive government information", Sessions said after referencing the call logs released Thursday.
"It's easier to figure out who's leaking than the leakers may realize", Conway said on Fox News.
Only this week transcripts of rancorous calls between President Trump and foreign leaders surfaced in the Washington Post.
The climate for leaks has been attributed at least partly to holdovers from the Obama administration and Republican bureaucrats who supported other primary candidates and actively oppose President Trump and his agenda.
Comey later testified that he orchestrated the leaks to ensure that a special investigator was put in charge of the Russian Federation investigation.