Will White House Use Lie Detectors to Stop Leaks?

RTS1AEP8
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a briefing on leaks of classified material threatening national security at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

As continued leaks have plagued the White House, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway threatened leakers Friday as part of the administration's efforts to limit these disclosures, particularly on national security topics.

Conway said the administration hasn't ruled using lie detector tests to out leakers, and Sessions said Friday the Department of Justice was dedicating more resources to investigating and prosecuting leakers. The attorney general added the DOJ is reviewing media subpoenas.

During Conway's Fox & Friends appearance Friday, host Steve Doocy said since a finite number of people would have access to those phone calls, the White House could call in each individual and give them a lie detector test.

"They may," Conway said. "They may, they may not, there are many different ways to discover who's leaking."

Their statements come following two major stories Thursday: the revelation that special counsel Robert Mueller had empanelled a grand jury and the publication of the transcripts of conversations between President Donald Trump and two foreign leaders.

"I strongly agree with the president and condemn in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks undermining the ability of our government to protect this country," Sessions said Friday. "No one is entitled to surreptitiously fight their battles in the media by revealing sensitive government information. No government can be effective when its leaders cannot discuss sensitive matters in confidence or to talk freely in confidence with foreign leaders."

Conway added the leaks "imperil national security" and that Democrats such as Virginia Senator Mark Warner have raised similar complaints.

"This is incensing the people who are here to serve, and that begins with the president and vice president," Conway said. "You are hurting the president's ability to negotiate and to discuss serious issues with other heads of state."

The Department of Justice has received nearly as many criminal referrals regarding unauthorized disclosures of classified material in the first six months of the Trump administration than the previous three years combined, Sessions said. He added the DOJ has more than tripled the number of active leak investigations under President Trump.

Additionally, Sessions said the DOJ is reviewing its media subpoena policy, which some worry may have a chilling effect on the press.

"We respect the important role that the press plays, and we'll give them respect, but it is not unlimited," Sessions said. "They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance the press's 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."

Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, wrote the publishing of leaks has "led to White House dismissals, reversals of dangerous policies, investigations, and a dip in public support for the administration."

"Leakers and whistleblowers within the U.S. government—coupled with aggressive investigative journalism—have given the public a revealing view inside the Trump White House and it's is one of the only things holding the administration accountable," he wrote.

The Obama administration similarly cracked-down on leaks, especially on the national security scene, and journalists have complained crackdowns on leakers had a chilling effect on the press, hurting the public's knowledge of key issues.