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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference announcing the takedown of the dark web marketplace AlphaBay, at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein


By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One of the top officials at the U.S. Justice Department said Sunday that the agency's heightened focus on policing leaks of classified information is not intended to put journalists in legal jeopardy.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein emphasized that the department's renewed effort to prosecute leaks of classified information is not aimed at the news media.

"We're after the leakers, not the journalists," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "We don't prosecute journalists for doing their jobs."

But Rosenstein would not rule out potentially charging journalists in the future altogether, saying reporters could face charges if they deliberately violated the law.

"Generally speaking, reporters who publish information are not committing a crime, but there might be a circumstance in which they do," he said. "I wouldn't rule it out if there were a case where the reporter was purposefully violating the law."

On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that his department was tripling the number of investigations into leaks of classified information. President Donald Trump has been fiercely critical of the high number of leaks coming from the federal government since he took office.

Rosenstein said the Justice Department has experienced a "surge" of referrals pertaining to leaks of government information. He also said that the department would pursue charges against "anybody who breaks the law" leaking information, including members of Congress and top White House officials.

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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