Der Tagesspiegel reported that in 2014, two internal “inspections” by the Chancellery's head of information security (Geheimschutzbeauftragter) looked into journalists' sources after reports were published based on classified documents.
One case in May 2014 saw the publication of information from the intelligence services that had been classified as “secret” – the second-highest level of German government classification.
Another probe in June 2014 found secret information from German intelligence posts abroad had been used to inform journalists' reporting.
The Interior Ministry reported two infractions of secrecy by the press in the same time period, both based on documents classified at the lowest level of protection.
The news comes just days after federal prosecutors announced that they would drop an investigation into journalists at Netzpolitik.org for “treason” over their reporting on classified information.
Government planned to launch legal action
Der Tagesspiegel asked for information about the investigations under freedom of information rules after the government had announced it wanted to launch legal action against those responsible for publishing the secrets.
But the government did not say which articles, journalists or media organzations it had investigated, claiming that this would “deepen the damage to secrecy”.
It remains unclear whether journalists could be targeted for legal action by the Chancellery, which has until now insisted that it ruled out prosecuting them under the criminal law.
At the end of 2014, the government said in a statement that it was “constantly examining, in cases of unauthorised relaying of classified information to third parties, all relevant legal steps and those necessary for security.
“That includes looking into criminal allegations.”
News of the 2014 probes came just one day after Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she “emphatically supported” Justice Minister Heiko Maas' moves to discourage the prosecution of journalists.