Former Treasury employee sentenced to 6 months in ‘leak’ case – NBC Connecticut
A former employee of the US Treasury Department was sentenced to six months in prison on Thursday for leaking confidential financial reports to a BuzzFeed reporter.
Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards pleaded guilty to conspiracy last year, admitting to leaking bank reports, some of which relate to people being investigated in the Special Advocate’s investigation Robert Mueller on Foreign Interference in the US Elections.
The government said documents leaked for more than a year included reports on Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman of former President Donald Trump, as well as a woman accused of trying to infiltrate American political organizations. as a secret Russian agent.
U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods sentenced Edwards, who was arrested in 2018, at the top of the federal sentencing guidelines.
Woods called his actions “illegal and wrong” and said they “made our country less secure”.
Prosecutors had called for “serious punishment” for Edwards, saying she had betrayed the public and risked hampering current and future investigations. Defense lawyers have asked for time served.
Edwards worked for several federal government agencies before becoming a senior advisor to the head of the intelligence division of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, also known as FinCEN, an office of the US Treasury Department responsible for protecting the country’s financial system.
Prosecutors said she disclosed more than 2,000 confidential reports of suspicious activity and more than 50,000 documents in total. Banks are required to file suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department when they detect transactions that raise questions about possible financial misconduct such as money laundering.
Prosecutors said Edwards shared his information with a reporter who then shared thousands of suspicious activity reports with publications around the world. Although the reporter has not been named by prosecutors, other court documents identify him as BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold. He was in court on Thursday and declined to comment afterwards.
BuzzFeed and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published a wealth of stories, dubbed “The FinCEN Files,” which were based on material obtained from Edwards.
Among other things, the stories examined regulatory failures in the detection and suppression of international money laundering.
Before being sentenced, Edwards spoke at length about her American Indian heritage and the Indian influence on our founding fathers.
But she also said: “I apologize for the disclosure of this information.”
In a statement, BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal called Edwards a “courageous whistleblower” and said the news agency “strongly condemns today’s sentence.”
“She fought to warn the public of serious risks to the national security of the United States, first through the formal whistleblower process, then through the press. She did it, despite enormous personal risks, because she felt she owed it to the country she loves, ”he said.
Mittenthal said Edwards allowed BuzzFeed News and 108 media organizations in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to publish the “FinCEN Files”.
“This survey has helped inspire major reforms and lawsuits in the United States, the EU and countries around the world,” Mittenthal said, adding that BuzzFeed first recognized the role of ‘Edwards into the project after giving permission to say she provided the suspicious activity reports.
Edwards’ attorney, Stephanie M. Carvlin, argued that Edwards made her revelations after concluding that those who ran the Treasury Department had committed wrongdoing “creating a dangerous situation for the American people.”
“She wasn’t doing it for money… for personal glory,” Carvlin said. “She wants to help the American people.”
Assistant US Attorney Kim Ravener said Edwards’ portrayal as a whistleblower was “just plain wrong,” and she criticized her for her lack of remorse.
The prosecutor said Edwards filed internal complaints, but her allegations were unfounded and she subsequently disclosed documents jeopardizing investigations ranging from terrorism to public corruption.
She said her leaks had also had a “chilling effect” on the financial industry’s willingness to comply with disclosure requirements.
Ravener said Edwards hoped to capitalize on his demands in a promotion.
Announcing the sentence, Woods said it was “sad and perhaps ironic” that Edwards entered public service because she was devastated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
He said she “came to believe that divulging America’s secrets would somehow benefit our nation.”
Eight people have been prosecuted for leaking information to journalists since 2017, according to the US Press Freedom Tracker online site.
The cases included a counterterrorism analyst accused of disclosing classified documents, an Internal Revenue Service employee accused of disclosing suspicious financial transactions and the longtime director of security of the Special Senate Intelligence Committee, who has been accused of lying to the FBI about contact with journalists.
The conviction also came a day after The New York Times reported that the Justice Department secretly seized phone records for nearly four months in 2017 from four of its reporters during an investigation into the leaks carried out while Donald Trump was president. Similar disclosures were made to the Washington Post and CNN last month about the seizure of journalists’ phone records for Trump-era investigations.
News agencies were told of the seizures by the Justice Department of President Joe Biden, who said journalists’ phone records would not be secretly viewed while he was president.