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Ex-FBI agent pleads guilty to leaking secrets about Yemen operation to AP

– A former FBI explosives expert was sentenced Thursday to roughly 3 1/2 years in prison for possessing and disclosing secret information, which he has said included intelligence he gave to The Associated Press for a story about a U.S. operation in Yemen in 2012.

The story on Yemen led to a federal leaks investigation and the seizure of AP phone records in the government’s search for the source.

Donald Sachtleben, 55, of Carmel pleaded guilty to one count of disclosing and one count of possessing classified information. He was immediately sentenced by U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence, who told the 25-year FBI veteran of the FBI: “Clearly, you have betrayed your nation.”

He also sentenced Sachtleben to eight years in prison in an unrelated child pornography case. The former agent pleaded guilty to distributing and possessing pornographic images of underage girls.

Sachtleben spoke for more than 20 minutes before he was sentenced, apologizing to family, friends and former colleagues at the FBI for “breaking the bonds of trust.”

He did not discuss his motives but said, “It was never my intention to ever derive profit.”

Sachtleben partly blamed his actions on what he described as post-traumatic stress arising from his decades in the FBI participating in high-profile investigations, which included the Oklahoma City bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York.

He said he admitted he leaked classified information in order to prevent former co-workers from falling “under clouds of suspicion.”

“I wanted to ... make it absolutely clear that the crime I did was all on my own,” he said.

He later issued a statement saying he was not the “sole or original source of information.”

Asked about Sachtleben’s statement, AP spokesman Paul Colford in New York said the news organization does not discuss its sources.

Prosecutors said in court documents that he was not acting “as any kind of ‘whistle-blower’ ” and that his actions were “not the result of a desire to expose perceived waste, fraud, abuse, or other government misconduct.”

Following recommendations in the plea agreement, the judge sentenced Sachtleben to three years, seven months on the national security charge and eight years, one month for child pornography.

Combined, he had faced a maximum sentence of 50 years behind bars.

The Justice Department said in September that its pursuit of Sachtleben began with the child pornography investigation. It said Sachtleben was not identified as a suspect in the leaks case until after investigators had analyzed the AP phone records and compared them to other evidence in their possession.