News / USA

Former FBI Agent to Plead Guilty to Leaking Secret Information to Journalists

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A former FBI explosives expert will plead guilty to revealing classified information to journalists about a disrupted terrorist plot to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner in 2012.

A statement released Monday by the U.S. Justice Department says Donald Sachtleben has admitted telling an Associated Press reporter about the plot conceived by the Yemen-based branch of al-Qaida and about the bomb that was to be used in the attack.

The AP's May 2012 story of the disrupted plot led the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the leak. The department later informed the AP that it had secretly obtained about two months of phone records from the agency's reporters and editors.

Under the plea agreement reached with federal prosecutors, the 55-year-old Sachtleben will serve nearly 12 years in prison on the leak charges and a separate charge of possessing and distributing child pornography.

Sachtleben spent 25 years as a bomb technician until his retirement in 2008. He was later rehired as an FBI contractor and retained his security clearance, which gave him access to the FBI crime laboratory in Virginia, where he learned of the al-Qaida plot.

The AP's story about the Justice Department obtaining its phone records set off a storm of criticism against the Obama administration for its aggressive pursuit of people who have revealed government secrets to journalists.

One of those investigations involved a search warrant for the emails of a Fox News reporter who had obtained secret information about North Korea.

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