As part of Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz’s 2018 investigation into the FBI’s misconduct during the 2016 election season, there was a limited spin-off probe into a high-level FBI official who was accused of having unauthorized contact with the media and leaking sensitive law enforcement information to a number of reporters.
Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Washington Examiner, that leaker has been identified as 53-year-old C. Bryan Paarmann, the former deputy assistant director of the FBI’s international operations division.
Paarmann was not prosecuted for his many discovered violations and has since retired from the bureau, according to the Examiner.
FBI leaker outed
A one-page summary of Paarmann’s violations — in which he was not named — was released by IG Horowitz in May of 2019. The memo revealed that the top FBI official “had numerous contacts with members of the media in violation of FBI policy” and “disclosed law enforcement or other sensitive information to the media without authorization,” the Examiner noted.
According to the outlet, Paarmann’s misconduct included disclosing to the media sealed information from federal courts, providing sensitive materials to journalists without the proper authorization, and having dozens of unauthorized “official contacts” with various members of the press in violation of FBI policy.
The summary went on to note that, as part of Paarmann’s illicit contacts with the media, the FBI staffer also accepted a variety of gifts that were in violation of federal policies. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to prosecute any of the numerous violations.
Enter the Examiner‘s FOIA request, which resulted in the release of a more extensive 21-page summary of the IG’s investigation into Paarmann’s misconduct. Though portions of that report remain redacted, including the identities of the reporters and the specific cases Paarmann spoke with them about, the Examiner’s Jerry Dunleavy did some digging and deduced some of the finer details.
One reporter he identified is Del Wilbur of the Los Angeles Times, who Paarmann allegedly communicated with extensively and even met in person on several occasions. According to Dunleavy, it strongly appears that Paarmann served as an anonymous source for some of Wilbur’s articles on cases like the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida in June 2016, as well as the shooting of several Dallas police officers by an anti-cop activist later that summer.
But that’s far from the whole of it. According to Dunleavy, the investigation into Paarmann uncovered relationships the FBI official cultivated with at least six different reporters that included several hundred emails, phone calls, and text messages.
The staffer also enjoyed more than a dozen rounds of golf and private meetings for dinner and drinks with members of the press — some of which were paid for by the reporters — as well as attendance at a housewarming party of one the reporters and a $225 ticket to a special media awards dinner.
While Paarmann seemed to acknowledge his unauthorized contacts with the media to investigators, he initially denied any leaking, only to later admit to it when confronted with the evidence. But instead of being prosecuted, Paarmann was merely transferred in 2017 by FBI Director Christopher Wray to run the New York City counterterrorism operation, a position from which he has since retired.
In his own defense, Paarmann told the Examiner that he “never endangered a prosecution and only did what I believed my superiors had tasked me with.”
“I gave 35 years of faithful and devoted service to this nation and never did I give classified or investigatively sensitive information to the press,” he added, according to the Daily Mail. But the Examiner noted that one employee in the FBI’s office of public affairs said he didn’t “remember giving any type of explicit or implicit guidance to go out and do anything independent of the office of public affairs.”
“Especially socially,” the Examiner‘s source added.