Ex-Mpls. FBI agent pleads guilty to leaking classified info to reporter

Updated April 18, 11:45 a.m. | Posted April 17, 2:19 p.m.

A former agent with the FBI's Minneapolis division, whose lawyers say was required to "implement FBI investigation directives that profiled and intimidated minority communities in Minnesota," pleaded guilty Tuesday to two federal offenses of unlawfully retaining and leaking classified documents.

Terry Albury, who was assigned to the bureau's counterterrorism squad, was charged last month by the Justice Department's National Security Division with one count of "knowingly and willfully" transmitting documents and information relating to national defense to a reporter for The Intercept, a national online news organization.

Albury was also charged with a second count of refusing to hand over documents to the government "related to use of an online platform for recruitment by a specific terrorist group."

Albury's attorneys, JaneAnne Murray and Joshua Dratel, said their client's conduct was "driven by his belief that there was no viable alternative to remedy the abuses he sought to address."

"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," the lawyer's statement said. "For Terry, the only African-American field agent in the Minneapolis office, the problem of racism both within the FBI and its interactions with minority communities was especially pronounced."

Albury, 39, who now lives in northern California, towered over his lawyers who stood next to him during the plea hearing. He was soft spoken, and judge Wilhelmina Wright told him at one point: "I need you to keep your voice up. I need to hear you."

Albury became the second person charged with leaking secret documents to The Intercept.

While the documents unsealed late last month never identify the news outlet, the dates align with stories posted to The Intercept's website in January 2017, along with FBI classified documents that exactly match those Albury is charged with leaking.

A 32-page federal search warrant affidavit in August outlined in detail the steps the FBI took to investigate Albury. The affidavit asked a federal court magistrate judge for permission to search Albury's home, truck and office for evidence he leaked classified information to the online media website.

The documents unsealed late last month never identify the news outlet, however the dates align with stories posted to The Intercept's website in January 2017, along with FBI classified documents that exactly match those Albury is charged with leaking.

The Justice Department has vowed to crack down on leaks that it contends undermine national security and the affidavit is the most detailed description on how the FBI used its own technology — and the records themselves — to track such leaks.

"Mr. Albury was entrusted by the FBI with a security clearance, which included a responsibility to protect classified national defense information. Instead, he knowingly disclosed that material to someone not authorized to receive it," said Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI's counterintelligence division. "The FBI will work tirelessly to bring to justice those who would expose America's secrets. Today, as the result of the hard work of dedicated special agents, analysts, and prosecutors, Mr. Albury has taken responsibility for his illegal action."

An FBI audit found that Albury had accessed several documents from FBI systems classified as secret that were published by The Intercept, according to the warrant.

The warrant said the FBI identified about 27 secret documents published by The Intercept between April 2016 and February 2017.

On three occasions in the summer of 2017, video surveillance captured Albury at his office at the airport, holding a digital camera and inserting what appears to be a memory card into the camera, according to the warrant. He then took photos of his computer screen which contained documents classified as secret.

Albury was hired by the FBI in 2001, a year after finishing his internship there, to conduct surveillance operations. He became an agent in 2005 and was assigned to the FBI Minneapolis field office.

On Tuesday, Albury signed a $100,000 unsecured bond. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release. The government has recommended 46 to 57 months. The defense is seeking 37 to 46 months.

A probation officer will prepare a presentence report that will help a judge during the sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.