A Black FBI Special Agent in the Minneapolis field office has pleaded guilty to handing over highly of classified national defense information to the media because he was convinced that his employers were “racially targeting” Somalis in America on account of their involvement in terrorism.
Terry J. Albury admitted to violating his oath to protect our country by disclosing to a reporter classified information that, as an FBI agent, he was entrusted to protect,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in a press release issued by the Department of Justice.
“Albury admitted that his actions put America at risk. As this prosecution demonstrates, we will not waver in our commitment to pursue and hold accountable government officials who violate their obligations to protect our nation’s secrets and break the laws they have sworn to uphold.”
Albury, 39, worked as an FBI Special Agent in the Minneapolis field office at the time of the disclosures. At the time, Albury also worked as a liaison with Customs and Border Protection at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
In connection with his FBI employment, Albury held a Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance, and his daily duties provided him access to sensitive and classified FBI and other U.S. government information.
According to court documents, beginning in 2016 and continuing through August 2017, Albury knowingly and willfully disclosed national defense information, classified at the Secret level, to a reporter.
Albury employed methods to avoid detection, including printing documents that he created by cutting and pasting portions of an original document into a new document so as to avoid leaving a record of having printed the original, classified document.
Albury also accessed documents on a classified computer and took pictures of the computer screen in order to photograph certain classified documents. Those additional classified documents were recovered on an electronic storage device found during a search of his home.
As set forth in the plea agreement, Albury was never authorized to retain the documents at issue at his residence or to transmit them to any person not entitled to receive them. Albury knew that he was not authorized to remove documents containing National Defense Information and classified information from secure locations, and further knew that he was not authorized to retain them at his residence or to transmit them to any person not authorized to receive them.
Albury said in a statement that he knew it was illegal but felt he had to act against a “culture in the bureau that often treats minority communities with suspicion and disrespect.”
His attorneys, JaneAnne Murray and Joshua Dratel, issued a statement to reporters on his behalf saying Albury, who was the only black field agent in the FBI’s Minneapolis office, “acted out of conscience. They said he was troubled by how racism within the FBI affected its interactions with minority communities.”
“The situation became even more acute for him when, having previously served a tour for the FBI in Iraq, he was assigned to the counterterrorism squad and was required first-hand to implement FBI investigation directives that profiled and intimidated minority communities in Minnesota and other locations in which Terry served,” they said.
Albury was accused of sharing documents with an online news organization sometime between February 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017. They included a document, dated Aug. 17, 2011, and classified as “secret,” that related to how the FBI assesses confidential informants, and an undated document “relating to threats posed by certain individuals from a particular Middle Eastern country.”
Many of the FBI’s counterterrorism investigations in Minnesota have focused primarily on the state’s large Somali community. Roughly three dozen men from the community left the state to join al-Shabab, a Somali Islamic extremist group, or militants in Syria including the Islamic State group. Others have been convicted on terrorism-related charges for plotting to join or provide support to those groups.
The story references a secret document dated Aug. 17, 2011. Public case documents don’t name the news organization or any reporters, nor did any names emerge during the hearing.
However, the date on the classified document that Albury acknowledged leaking and its subject matter corresponded with a story posted by The Intercept on Jan. 31, 2017, that deals with assessing informants and recruiting them by identifying their “motivations and vulnerabilities.”
A sworn statement by an FBI counterintelligence agent says Albury accessed at least two-thirds of the 27 classified documents that the news organization posted online. Some of those documents had been photographed from a computer screen, it said, adding that Albury was caught on surveillance video at his airport office photographing his computer screen on three dates last year.
A second count charged Albury with unauthorized possession of a document “relating to the use of an online platform for recruitment by a specific terrorist group.” He acknowledged having classified documents at his home without authorization.
Albury pleaded guilty to one count of making an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of unlawful retention of national defense information. Albury faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison per count.