Justice Dept. says release of Strzok texts was ‘unauthorized’

Justice Dept. says release of Strzok texts was ‘unauthorized’
The Justice Department said that the texts released to the media from FBI official Peter Strzok were "unauthorized." (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice is admitting that the release of private texts from FBI official Peter Strzok to reporters was “unauthorized,” and some think it could become a criminal offense.

What happened?

On Wednesday, Fox News and CBS News reported that they had “obtained” ten thousand texts from Peter Strzok, the FBI official who has been at the center of allegations that the FBI has been biased against President Trump.

“CBS News has obtained text messages that former Special Counsel investigator Peter Strzok sent to a senior FBI lawyer who was working with Robert Mueller’s team,” CBS tweeted.

They added, “these texts resulted in Strzok’s dismissal by Mueller and reassignment to FBI HR.”

The texts showed general scorn for Trump and his supporters in the run up to the election, and one in particular has been taken to mean that Strzok was taking active steps to counter his election of Trump to the Oval Office. Later Bream admitted that they had hundreds of his texts, not 10,000.

In a statement Thursday, the Department of Justice admits the texts were released in an “unauthorized” manner.

DOJ spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said, “As we understand now, some members of the media had already received copies of the texts before that — but those disclosures were not authorized by the department.”

Why is this important?

The improper release of the texts might merit further investigation and criminal charges, some believe.

Lawfare Executive Editor Susan Hennessey responded, “This actually has the makings of a real scandal for DOJ and certainly deserves it’s own IG inquiry. Important to know who authorized release to press and the precise rational for why it wasn’t a Privacy Act violation.”

Brookings fellow Norm Eisen added, “Guessing it was Trump political hacks at DOJ–and they are now in big trouble because of Privacy Act violations–among other regs transgressed by this.”

He continued in a later tweet, “DOJ backtracking because looks like TRUMP cronies there violated Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a by giving a few favored reporters those 10k text messages. Will result in IG investigation & litigation for sure.”