The recent New York Times report that the Obama administration is taking a more aggressive stance than its predecessor to punish unauthorized leaks to the press is even more dramatic in light of newly disclosed FBI statistics regarding the practice.
Though intelligence agencies submitted 153 referrals to the Justice Department about leaks of classified intelligence from 2005 to 2008 and 24 of those cases were investigated, the Bush-era DOJ didn't prosecute any cases, according to DOJ's response to questions posed by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy News blog.
By comparison, the Obama administration has already indicted suspected NSA leader Thomas Drake and several other prosecutions are pending or underway. In 2009, 30 suspected leaks were referred to the Justice Department.
Other prosecutions include that of FBI translator Shamai Leibowitz and possibly Specialist Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst suspected of transferring to Wikileaks.org a classified video of a U.S. military helicopter shooting and killing civilians in Baghdad.
From 2005 to 2009, 183 such referrals were submitted in total and the FBI identified 14 suspected leakers.
According to DOJ's response letter:
"In most cases, the information included in the referral is not adequate to initiate an investigation. The most typical information gap is a failure to identify all those with authorized access to the information, which is the necessary starting point for any leak investigation. When this information is sufficient to open an investigation, the FBI has been able to identify suspects in approximately 50% of these cases over the past 5 years. Even when a suspect is identified, though, prosecution is extremely rare (none of the 14 suspects identified in the past 5 years has been prosecuted)."