S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Senate Bill Targets Press, Public in an effort to stop intelligence leaks

Deliberation is going on this week  regarding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s draft bill that includes a number of Cyber security measures.  Committee Chair, Joe Lieberman (I - Connecticut) spoke about the importance of bipartisanship for the passage of this bill.  A Manager’s Amendment will be offered.  But there is much opposition to several provisions of the bill.  Steven Aftergood, of SAS, wrote an excellent article from which I have quoted extensively here.  He concludes: 
Drafted in secret and without the benefit of any public hearing, the Senate bill includes provisions that are “crude and dangerous,” the Washington Post editorialized today.
The bill was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee by a vote of 14 to 1, with Sen. Ron Wyden in opposition. The text of the bill is here. . . Sen. Wyden’s dissent may be found here.
The Obama administration has struggled with unauthorized intelligence leaks over time.  And the oversight Committees of the Senate are attempting to legislate heavily on the matter.  Author Aftergood explains:
The Senate Intelligence Committee markup of the FY2013 Intelligence Authorization Act, which was officially filed yesterday, devotes an entire title including twelve separate provisions to the issue of unauthorized disclosures of classified information, or leaks. . . .
As reported in the Washington Post today, one of the proposed measures (section 506 of the bill) would dictate that only agency leaders could present background briefings to the press. . .
Questioned by the Post, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein acknowledged that she had no evidence that such briefings, which are prized by reporters as valuable sources of information, had contributed to unauthorized disclosures.  And yet they would be forbidden. . .
Transparency was to be one of the hallmarks of President Obama’s administration, but it has not lived up to the expectations of many.  According to Mr. Aftergood,
Other provisions in the new bill were also roundly criticized by public interest groups concerned with access to government information.
A provision to prevent former government officials from providing paid commentary to news media outlets on intelligence matters is very likely unconstitutional, said Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies in a new analysis of the bill.
“The over-breadth of this provision in prohibiting commentary and analysis even when no classified information is disclosed would violate the First Amendment,” Ms. Martin wrote. “Indeed the provision seems drafted in order to chill public discussion of information that is not classified rather than being narrowly tailored to simply target disclosures of classified information.”
Another provision (in section 511) would grant intelligence agency heads the authority to unilaterally revoke the pension of an employee . . .
This section “would give intelligence agency heads nearly unrestrained discretion to suppress speech critical of the intelligence community– even after an employee has resigned or retired from an intelligence agency– and to retaliate against disfavored employees or pensioners, including whistleblowers,” wrote the Project on Government Oversight and several other public interest organizations in an open letter to the Senate Committee yesterday. . .
The delicate balance of the public’s right to know vs. keeping national security secrets is extremely difficult to maintain.  Add in the risk of cyber security breeches, and you have a very tangled web.  The key, it seems to me, it for security information classifiers to act with good faith in avoiding classifying information that is merely embarrassing. 
Our nation must honor its bravest whistle-blowers and protect them at all costs.  Otherwise we become merely “The National Security State.”

Source: Anti-Leak Measures in Senate Bill Target Press, Public
Steven Aftergood
Tue, 31 Jul 2012 14:30:17 GMT

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