National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Tuesday evening that leaks to the media about national security matters are “treasonous.”
During an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies to mark the 70th anniversary of the National Security Council, McMaster stated firmly that U.S. officials who leak information about national security matters to the media are essentially engaging in treasonous behavior.
“The real dilemma is that the more people you can bring in, the more expertise you can bring in, and bring to bear on a problem, the better because it gives you different perspectives, it allows you to understand better the tools that you can bring to bear to help solve problems,” McMaster said. “But in recent years in particular, the problem with leaks has become a real challenge to national security, and so I think what’s very important is that everyone who’s involved in these policy discussions understand the sacred trust that is placed in them, and they realize that speaking to the media about government deliberations is treasonous when it involves national security.”
“With that confidence, the more transparency the better, I think, in terms of common understanding across departments and agencies, and so that’s the balance that they really have to strike,” McMaster added.
McMaster’s comments come in the wake of a heated battle for control of the NSC, which started when he took over control from former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. That battle for control entailed purging the various staffers hired by Flynn and getting a handle on leaks to the media. The Daily Caller News Foundation reported in August that major finger pointing at the NSC occurred after telephone transcripts of President Donald Trump’s phone conversations with various world leaders leaked to The Washington Post. At the time, three current administration officials blamed McMaster for creating a demoralized staff and a poisonous atmosphere.
In September, BuzzFeed News obtained a memo from McMaster sent to top government officials, warning them about leaks to the media — even of unclassified information.
“The unauthorized disclosure of classified information or controlled unclassified United States Government information causes harm to our Nation and shakes the confidence of the American people,” McMaster wrote in the memo. “In this era of unprecedented unauthorized disclosures, it is important to take time to review with your workforce their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding United States Government information.”
McMaster sent the memo about a month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a crackdown against leaks.
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