The Justice Department’s inspector general failed to identify FBI officials who leaked information to reporters in 2016 or to Donald J. Trump’s confidant Rudolph W. Giuliani, who claimed he had inside information about an investigation into Hillary Clinton. just before the investigation turned the matter upside down. presidential race, a report released Thursday said.
The office of the Independent Inspector General, Michael E. Horowitz, said it identified dozens of officials who interacted with the news media and struggled amid such a vast universe of contacts to determine who had released sensitive information. It also noted that it did not have the authority to subpoena data, witnesses or messages from officials’ personal communications equipment.
Mr. Horowitz had been investigating the matter after several public revelations during the election about FBI investigations into Mrs. Clinton’s and Mr. Trump’s campaign.
In one of the most eye-catching episodes, Mr. Giuliani had claimed on television in late October 2016 that a coming “surprise” would help Mr. Trump. Two days later, FBI Director James B. Comey took the highly unusual step of publicly disclosing that the agency was investigating the use of Mrs. Clinton’s personal email account to conduct government business while she was Secretary of State. had reopened. The revelation shocked the presidential campaign days before Trump’s unexpected victory.
Later that day, Mr. Giuliani claimed on a radio show that he had heard from former FBI agents and “even from a few active agents, who clearly do not want to identify themselves” about rumors of a major development in the case.
But in the report released Thursday, Mr. Horowitz’s office said it had not identified an internal FBI source of information for Mr. Giuliani and told investigators that despite his public claims, he had not spoken to “active” agents. only gossiped with former agency officials.
“He stated that his use of the term ‘active’ was intended to refer to retired FBI agents who were still active in security and advisory,” the report said.
Giuliani told investigators: “Comey’s statements came as a shock to me. I had no prior knowledge of any of them.”
Mr. Giuliani’s statements in 2016 have been considered significant because the Inspector General’s office also determined that Mr. Comey disclosed the reopening of the Clinton email investigation, in part out of fear that its existence could lead to the news media would leak. Part of the investigation was handled by federal authorities in Manhattan, where Mr. Giuliani was once the US attorney and mayor, and where he has many longtime friends and law enforcement supporters.
Mr. Comey later told Congress that he was so concerned about Mr. Giuliani’s comments at the time that he ordered the agency to open a leak investigation into who Mr. Giuliani was talking to within the FBI.
Like a report published in 2018, the document released Thursday criticized the FBI for allowing a culture of permissiveness about contacts with the news media in 2016 and for not following its own policies designed to prevent disclosure of information. sensitive information to the public.
As a sign of the agency’s culture at the time, the inspector general said at a conference for FBI special agents in charge of field offices in April 2017, senior agency officials said they intended to update the policy for dealing with the news media. to sharpen.
Within hours of this discussion, and months before the FBI officially adopted and announced the new media policy, a national news organization reported on the media policy change discussion at the conference, citing unnamed FBI officials in attendance. the report said.
The inspector general said investigators had identified six FBI employees who did not work in the department’s news agency and who had contact with the news media, adding that they were referred to the agency for possible disciplinary action.
The FBI told the inspector general’s office that in response to its previous recommendations, it had improved employee training and imposed disciplinary penalties for talking to the press.
In a letter to the Inspector General, the FBI acknowledged the damage that can be caused by leaks.
“The unauthorized disclosure of non-public information during an ongoing criminal investigation could potentially harm the investigation, lead to the disclosure of sensitive law enforcement information, and be fundamentally unfair to the subject or target of the investigation,” said Douglas A. Leff, the deputy. Director of the Bureau’s Inspection Department.