State Department begins internal leaks investigation after sensitive info surfaces in media

State Department begins internal leaks investigation after sensitive info surfaces in media
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is cracking down on media leaks in the State Department. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s senior aides are looking for “leakers” in the State Department in light of recent media reports that have angered the new secretary, Axios reported.

What did the State Department say?

Heather Nauert, a State Department spokesperson, recently held a public affairs meeting to discuss the leaks, according to Axios. The meeting came after an Associated Press article reported that Brett McGurk — a Special Presidential Envoy appointed under former President Barack Obama — was remaining on the job for an six more months.

“There were a couple of articles that pissed off Pompeo,” a source familiar with the meeting told Axios. “One was an article about McGurk. Another about slow-rolling Palestinian funding.”

State Department employees phones were checked as part of the investigation. Pompeo, who took the State Department lead after serving with the CIA, was shocked to see news stories about internal matters, the report states. Some of the leaks were discovered when reporters attempt to confirm information they received from overseas sources.

Was the response warranted?

State Department employees told Axios they believe Pompeo’s response is heavy-handed and unwarranted.

“They’ve gotten diplomatic security involved in the leak investigation — the internal security of the State Department — which is bananas,” a source told Axios. “These are the people who stand outside diplomats’ doors when they sleep overseas.”

Nauret told Axios that the unauthorized release of information, whether it’s classified or not, is always a concern.

“It can jeopardize ongoing operations and negotiations in which the State Department is involved,” Nauret said. “Also, Diplomatic Security doesn’t ‘stand outside diplomats’ doors. DS is the security and law enforcement bureau for the entire agency. Their mission is to provide a secure environment for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.”

A senior State Department official told Axios that leaks on internal deliberations “have a debilitating effect on our prosecution of foreign policy.”

“Most diplomats working on these issues support any effort to ensure our messages are appropriately controlled and coordinated through official channels,” the source said.