Ethics Observations As An Ex-FBI Agent Is Sentenced To Four Years in Prison For Leaking Documents To The News Media

From the Times story:

By the time Terry J. Albury arrived in Minneapolis in 2012, about 11 years after he went to work for the F.B.I., he had grown increasingly convinced that agents were abusing their powers and discriminating against racial and religious minorities as they hunted for potential terrorists.

The son of an Ethiopian political refugee, Mr. Albury was the only African-American field agent assigned to a counterterrorism squad that scrutinized Minnesota’s Somali-American community. There, according to his lawyer, he became disillusioned about “widespread racist and xenophobic sentiments” in the bureau and “discriminatory practices and policies he observed and implemented.”

In 2016, Mr. Albury began photographing secret documents that described F.B.I. powers to recruit potential informants and identify potential extremists. On Thursday, he was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty last year to unauthorized disclosures of national security secrets for sending several of the documents to The Intercept, which published the files with a series titled “The F.B.I.’s Secret Rules.”

Observations:

1. GOOD!

2. Whether Albury’s perceptions of discrimination were accurate or not, they were not excuses for breaking the law.

3. He has been described as a whistleblower. A genuine whistleblower identifies himself or herself while bringing misconduct to the attention of authorities and the public. Albury was a spy, a betrayer and a coward.

4. At his sentencing, Albury said that he apologized to his former F.B.I. colleagues and said he had been “motivated to act by perceived injustices.  “I truly wanted to make a difference and never intended to put anyone in danger,” he said. Bad acts are not justified by good motives, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, the ends do not justify the means, and two wrongs don’t make a right. Albury could have primed his ethical alarms with the oldest and hoariest ethics cliches imaginable.

5. Betsy Reed, the editor in chief of The Intercept, which was the recipient of Albury’s leaks, complained that it was getting easier for the government to hunt down journalists’ sources using surveillance and internal monitoring systems, and warned of a growing chill for investigative journalism. There should be a chill on that kind of “investigative journalism,” which abuses the First Amendment to facilitate, encourage, reward and sanctify illegal acts by professionals and officials violating oaths and laws.

6. Reed also said that “Like former N.S.A. contractor Reality Winner, who also faced prosecution under the Espionage Act, Terry Albury was a whistle-blower motivated by conscience who was targeted not because he harmed national security but because authorities found his disclosures inconvenient or embarrassing.”

7. Ah! So as long as illegally and unethically leaked or disclosed information is just “inconvenient or embarrassing” to one’s employer, agency or client, or if the leaker’s “motivations” are pure, the government’s reaction should be “Live and let live.” Do journalists really believe this anti-ethical nonsense?

8. They probably do. They probably do.

7 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

7 responses to “Ethics Observations As An Ex-FBI Agent Is Sentenced To Four Years in Prison For Leaking Documents To The News Media

  1. dragin_dragon

    Re: #8: Sad, that.

  2. Here's Johnny

    Sometimes, timelines are interesting. Terry Albury apparently began illegally feeding information to The Intercept early in 2016. Later in 2016, an earth-shaking event occurred. That was followed in January 2017 by, for many, an extremely traumatic event. Then, that very month, The Intercept published a series of articles, thanks to Albury, about what a troublesome agency (love ’em, hate ’em, love ’em) President Trump had inherited.
    Knowing nothing about The Intercept, I assume their publication of leaked classified information, well after they began receiving it, had nothing to do with the inauguration of Trump. I must assume the series would have run even if someone else had ascended to the thro.., excuse me, been elected. I ascribe no special meaning to the sub-headline for one article, “President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers.” I believe it would have read the same, just as naturally, as “President HR Highness has inherited … .”
    So, Albury, who may be sincere in his apology, gets his just desserts, The Intercept loses nothing, another reason to fear Trump has been duly highlighted, and the Congress may or may not sometime get into the issue of domestic surveillance and other abuses of our rights.
    Time marches on.

  3. crella

    You ‘make a difference’ by voicing your objections to policy as it’s being formulated, not letting things become policy and then leaking them.

    • PennAgain

      Thanks for the clarification, Crella. I should have figured that out for myself.

      • crella

        Pardon my sigh of exasperation…I’m getting tired of people who cheat, break non-disclosure agreements, and leak classified documents being lauded as heroes.

        • Still waiting for the raft of leakers who should be prosecuted. H.R. Highness is top of the list, with many in high level government positions following her. If I had done it, I would be in jail long since.

          Two tiers of justice.

  4. Dwayne N. Zechman

    The rules and regulations related to disclosing classified information under the guise of being a whistleblower specifically call out that disclosing illegal activities by people who are attempting to use the cloak of classification to cover it up is protected.

    There is no “I don’t agree with this policy” exception, as appears to be the case here.

    –Dwayne

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