Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats As Delivered Remarks at Briefing on Leaks of Classified Materials Threatening National Security

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats As Delivered Remarks at Briefing on Leaks of Classified Materials Threatening National Security

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

As Delivered Remarks at Briefing on

Leaks of Classified Materials Threatening National Security

August 4, 2017

Department of Justice

DNI Coats, along with the Attorney General Session, is the co-lead of the National Insider Threat Task Force (NITTF)

Thank you Attorney General Sessions for your leadership and for inviting me to join you here today and working together on the Task Force. We have served together in the U.S. Senate, and now we serve together in the Trump Administration. We stand together today to address an issue which we both strongly believe needs to be addressed using the authorities of our respective agencies.

Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of working with the dedicated men and woman of the Intelligence Community. I have seen firsthand the work they do, tirelessly and without fanfare, to protect our country. I stand here today as their leader to express our grave concern that unauthorized disclosures of classified material are damaging our mission, and jeopardizing the safety and security of the American public.


In the last several years, the U.S. Intelligence Community has experienced some of the worst compromises of classified information in our nation’s history. These disclosures have been disseminated to both the media and our foreign adversaries. Let me be absolutely clear this morning – these disclosures have resulted in a major threat to our national security.

  • They endanger the men and women of the Intelligence Community, the armed services, and those who serve overseas;
  • They give our adversaries knowledge of our activities;
  • They impede our ability to share information with allies; 
  • There is also a real cost – in dollars – to compensate for blown programs; 
  • And, most importantly, as I have previously noted, these unauthorized disclosures endanger the safety and security of Americans across this country.

I would like to point out, however, that these national security breaches do not just originate in the Intelligence Community. They come from a wide range of sources within government, including the Executive Branch and including the Congress.

Now if someone -- who has access to classified material -- has legitimate concerns, there are multiple ways for them to put forward a complaint.

The IC offers avenues for whistleblowers … and protections for those individuals to report concerns without fear of reprisal.  And there are other legal options available outside of those channels, including notifying the Congressional intelligence committees, or even their Congressional representative or Senator in Congress.  Having said this, it is important to stress that any disclosure outside of authorized channels is a criminal offense. And we will simply not tolerate the illegal release of classified information.

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which is part of my office, is currently carrying out a review of the policies that are in place, guiding IC Agencies’ processes for investigating and reporting cases of unauthorized disclosures. In addition, NCSC is studying security clearance procedures to look for any inconsistencies in the processes for issuing security clearances to all IC employees including, government officials, contractors, detailees, etc. 

If inconsistencies are found, NCSC will make recommendations to strengthen the security clearance process. And this can be discussed, and will be discussed, after we finish our remarks. We will also continue to ensure the federal workforce is clear on the importance of respecting classifications and is fully aware of whistleblower options. And, we will also work with our counterparts in the Executive Branch and the Congress to address this issue.

I want to conclude by saying that we are prepared to take all necessary steps to:  

  • One, identify individuals who illegally disclose classified information.;
  • Secondly, forward information about their deeds to the FBI for full investigation.;
  • And we will work closely with DOJ to support prosecution of any person who makes an unauthorized disclosure of classified material;
  • Fourth and finally, as the Director of National Intelligence, I am also empowered to take administrative action within the IC to deal with individuals who break the law. And let me be clear, I will not hesitate to exercise those authorities.

Anybody who engages in these criminal acts, is betraying the Intelligence Community and the American people.  We feel the pain of these betrayals intensely and I can assure you that I will do everything in my power as DNI to hold these individuals accountable. 

For those who may be listening or watching this announcement, or who will later learn about what has been said this morning… Understand this: If you improperly disclose classified information we will find you, we will investigate you, we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law, and you will not be happy with the result.