U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Former FBI agent Terry Albury accused of leaking documents to The Intercept

Incident Details

Date of Incident
March 27, 2018

Leak Case

Alleged Recipient of Leak
Charged under Espionage Act
Terry Albury
— Terry Albury
November 18, 2020 - Update

Albury released from prison after two years

Former FBI special agent Terry Albury was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado, on Nov. 18, 2020, after serving part of his sentence for leaking classified information to The Intercept, according to a profile in The New York Times Magazine.

The files led to a series of articles published by The Intercept on the bureau’s practices involving racial and religious profiling and domestic spying of individuals as part of national defense efforts.

Albury was sentenced in October 2018 to 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

In 2021, Albury told NYT Magazine that he did not disclose the documents because of documented biases within the FBI, as his lawyers initially argued during plea hearings, but rather as a public service for those impacted by the practices.

October 18, 2018 - Update

Albury sentenced to 4 years in prison

On Oct. 18, 2018, Judge Wilhelmina Wright sentenced Albury to four years in prison and three years of supervised release, The Intercept reports.

“I truly wanted to make a difference and never intended to put anyone in danger,” Albury said during the sentencing hearing, according to The New York Times.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has vowed to crack down on government employees who share information with journalists.

“Today’s sentence should be a warning to every would-be leaker in the federal government that if they disclose classified information, they will pay a high price,” Sessions said in a statement about Albury's sentencing.

April 17, 2018 - Update

Albury pleads guilty

During a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, Albury pleaded guilty to two felony counts under the Espionage Act. He was released a $100,000 bond and will be sentenced at a later date.

While he technically faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, prosecutors are only asking for a sentence of 46 to 57 months in prison and the defense is seeking a sentence of 37 to 46 months in prison, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Following the court hearing, his lawyers released a statement to the press:

Terry Albury is a good and honorable man. His conduct in this case was an act of conscience. It was driven by his belief that there was no viable alternative to remedy the abuses he sought to address. He recognizes that what he did was unlawful and accepts full responsibility for his conduct, which he has demonstrated by reaching an agreement with the government to plead guilty.

We want to make clear that Terry did not make any disclosures or retain documents for money, for career advancement, or for any personal gain. He received nothing in return. Indeed, his conduct has destroyed his stellar career in law enforcement and branded him a felon. Most importantly, Terry did not disclose any names of any FBI personnel or assets or any operational information, and there is no allegation that his disclosures caused any harm to anyone.

The facts of Terry’s offense as set forth in the agreement — which he fully accepts — do not, however, tell his whole story. It has long been a critique of the FBI that it consists of and reflects a predominantly white male culture, which, as a result, has often treated minority communities with suspicion and disrespect. These criticisms are especially resonant in the terrorism context. For Terry, the only African-American field agent in the Minneapolis office, the problem of racism both within the FBI and in its interactions with minority communities was especially pronounced. The situation became even more acute for him when, having previously served a tour for the FBI in Iraq, he was assigned to the counter-terrorism 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.

Witnessing all this, and, as an African-American being subjected to it himself directly in some instances, profoundly affected Terry professionally and personally. The tensions and conflicts within him became unbearable, and he acted. In cases that involve unauthorized disclosures of matters of public interest, there is always the claim that the person making the disclosure should have pursued remedies through official channels. Here, for reasons that will amplified in our sentencing submission, Terry did not view this option as viable.

We would like to add that Terry appreciates the supportive statements of organizations and individuals who have, since this case became public, criticized the criminalization of disclosure of documents that chronicle and demonstrate government abuse.

In a separate statement to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, his lawyers contrasted the government’s treatment of Albury with its treatment of more powerful leakers:

There are a few other situations in which persons of substantially higher authority in the government than Terry made unauthorized disclosures of classified information. For example, Sandy Berger, President Clinton’s National Security Advisor, snuck classified documents out of a secure facility in his sock and then destroyed them. He walked away with a misdemeanor. General David Petraeus improperly revealed classified information to his paramour. He, too, walked away with a misdemeanor. Thomas Drake mishandled and disclosed classified document. Again, misdemeanor, no jail. Even the president has disclosed operational classified information to Russian diplomats without consequence. The president even recently pardoned a sailor who took photos of classified sections of a U.S. submarine.

March 27, 2018

On March 27, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a “felony information” document formally accusing former FBI agent Terry Albury of leaking classified documents to a news organization.

Minnesota Public Radio identified the news organization in question, which was not named in the court filing, as The Intercept.

Albury is being charged with two counts under section 793(e) of the Espionage Act, a law originally enacted in 1917 to combat foreign spying attempts that in recent years has been used to prosecute government employees who share classified information with journalists.

In a statement to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Albury’s attorneys said that their client does not dispute the government’s accusations.

“Terry Albury served the U.S. with distinction both here at home and abroad in Iraq. He accepts full responsibility for the conduct set forth in the Information. We would like to add that as the only African-American FBI field agent in Minnesota, Mr. Albury’s actions were driven by a conscientious commitment to long-term national security and addressing the well-documented systemic biases within the FBI.”

Albury is the second person to be charged under the Espionage Act since President Trump took office. Last year, the Department of Justice charged NSA contractor Reality Winner with leaking a classified document to The Intercept. Winner, who is fighting the government’s charges, has repeatedly been denied bail and remains in jail pending the outcome of the case.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that the Department of Justice plans to aggressively crack down on leaks of classified information to journalists.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].