WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency received training this week to prevent leaks to the media of classified and sensitive information as part of a White House-directed crackdown across federal agencies to stamp out leaks, according to a slide presentation seen on Thursday by Reuters.
“The unauthorized disclosure of classified information or controlled unclassified information (CUI) harms our nation and shakes the confidence of the American people,” read the introductory slide on the power point presentation shown at the one-hour workshop on Wednesday.
At the training event, employees watched a clip of an announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Aug. 4 that the Justice Department would crack down on leakers, according to EPA employees who attended the workshop. They also watched a clip of William Evanina, the U.S. National Counterintelligence Executive, on Fox News explaining why leaks are dangerous to national security.
Leaks to the media since President Donald Trump came to office in January have included revelations of internal administration squabbles, information about allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections, and the outcome of a review of U.S. National Monuments.
The EPA creates and enforces environmental regulations and its employees handle relatively small amounts of classified information that relate to national security. But they do sometimes coordinate with Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and other agencies during emergencies.
It is not clear if other government agencies have begun anti-leak training.
Career employees at federal agencies such as the EPA have painted often stark descriptions to the media of life under the Trump administration, which is seeking to impose budget and job cuts and undo hundreds of regulations.
Tensions have been high at the EPA as Administrator Scott Pruitt has repeatedly expressed doubts about the prevalent science behind climate change, in contrast to the opinions of many of the scientists who work for the agency.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in a statement that the training was designed to carry out the White House directive, and to instruct employees how to safeguard things like “personally identifiable information, confidential business information, law enforcement information, and information about critical infrastructure.”
Bowman said the training also highlighted whistleblower protections for employees wishing to report “waste, fraud and abuse, as well as violations of the law.”
Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Alistair Bell