Are FBI and NCTC Trying to Pressure Prosecutors to Charge the Second Intercept Source?

As it raises questions about whether the Obama Administration has the “appetite” to prosecute another inside source for journalists, the lastest reporting on the so-called "second leaker" seems designed to generate pressure to do just that. (Image: Leaked slide with overlay)

Citing “law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case,” Michael Isikoff reports that the government has identified “the second leaker” – a source of information on drone targeting and terrorist watchlisting for The Intercept.

The FBI has identified an employee of a federal contracting firm suspected of being the so-called second leaker who turned over sensitive documents about the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list to a journalist closely associated with ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case.

The FBI recently executed a search of the suspect’s home, and federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter, the sources said.

Because it raises questions about whether the Administration has the “appetite” to prosecute another source for journalists, the article seems designed to generate pressure to do just that – to get Congress (among others) to demand that the Justice Department prosecute this source.

But the case has also generated concerns among some within the U.S.intelligence communitythat top Justice Department officials – stung by criticism that they have been overzealous in pursuing leak cases – may now be more reluctant to bring criminal charges involving unauthorized disclosures to the news media, the sources said. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there was concern “there is no longer an appetite at Justice for these cases.”

While Isikoff outlines the content of The Intercept’s watchlist story, he leaves out several details that may make DOJ less interested in prosecuting this leak.