Former FBI employee sentenced for leaking classified papers

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Silver Spring man who worked as a linguist for the FBI was sentenced Monday to 20 months in prison for leaking secret documents to a blogger.

But federal prosecutors in Maryland have remained mum about exactly what was contained in the classified papers that Shamai K. Leibowitz, 39, gave the unnamed blogger in April 2009, while he worked on contract for the FBI. According to court records, the documents concerned "communication intelligence activities."

During a Monday hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dunne said Leibowitz "betrayed the FBI when he worked there," but offered no details.

U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. said the response of federal authorities convinced him Leibowitz committed a "very, very serious offense." But the judge said even he does not know what information Leibowitz, a Hebrew scholar, disclosed.

"I don't know what was divulged, other than some documents, and I don't know how it's compromised things," Williams said in court.

Leibowitz, who worked as a lawyer in Israel and has dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship, said in court papers that he worked for the U.S. State Department in 2006, teaching Hebrew and Israeli law and culture to American diplomats. He said he then was hired as a contractor by the U.S. Department of Defense at its Defense Language Institute.

According to court papers, Leibowitz worked on contract for the FBI from January through August 2009.

In court Monday, Leibowitz said he made a mistake. But he said that, at the time he revealed the classified information, he believed the documents showed a "violation of the law." He said he should have pursued other options within the government to report his concerns.

"I should not have done what I did, and I regret it terribly," he said.

In a letter to Williams, Leibowitz wrote that he spent his legal career helping "minorities, undocumented workers, refugees, and disadvantaged people." He said he settled in Maryland with his wife and twin children in 2004 and attended the Washington College of Law.

In 2008, Leibowitz became a lawyer in New York. He said his license has been suspended.

Leibowitz pleaded guilty in December to one count of disclosure of classified information. As part of the arrangement, he agreed to file no requests for documents concerning the investigation and to "never disclose," except to those who are authorized by the government, any classified or sensitive information he learned while working for the FBI.

Several members of the local Jewish community wrote Williams to support Leibowitz, who they said is an active member of his synagogue.

The case against Leibowitz comes as the government has charged a former U.S. intelligence official with leaking secrets to the media. Thomas A. Drake, 53, a former official with the National Security Agency, is accused of sharing classified information with a newspaper reporter.

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