- WASHINGTON -- "We've
got to do whatever it takes if it takes sending SWAT teams into journalists,
homes to stop these leaks," admonished James B. Bruce, vice chairman
of the CIA's Foreign Denial and Deception Committee.
- Whether the classified information is National Security
Agency encrypted message intercepts of pre-Sept. 11 chatter, war plans
for the invasion of Iraq, or the fact that U.S. intelligence was tracking
Osama bin Laden,s wireless phone calls, leaks have more than Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney in an uproar.
- 'Presumptive Right to Leak'
- Bruce, who has also served the CIA as deputy national
intelligence officer for science and technology in the National Intelligence
Council, admonished, "Somehow there has evolved a presumptive right
of the press to leak classified information.
- "I hope we get a test case, soon, that will pit
the government,s need to prosecute those who leak its classified documents
against the guarantees of free speech. I'm betting the government will
win, Bruce said to an audience this week at Washington's Institute of World
- "What the media person should do is return the classified
materials to the source with the provison: I have no right to this material.,
- Look What Clinton Veto and Pardon Did
- Bruce, a former professor of national security policy
at National War College and current adjunct professor at Georgetown University,
nailed home his points by touting the Shelby Amendment, vetoed by Bill
Clinton, to make leaks of classified materials criminally actionable.
- He decried Clinton,s pardon of former Navy intelligence
analyst Samuel L. Morison, the only government official ever convicted
of leaking classified information to the media.
- Current laws (under which Morison was charged and convicted)
prohibit the release of information that would compromise national security.
The measure sponsored by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., would impose a broader
standard, making it a felony to leak anything that the government has deemed
classified. Violators, including government officials of all kinds, would
face a fine and up to three years in prison.
- "I helped pushed legislation for years to make it
easier to prosecute people who willfully and knowingly leak classified
information, Shelby recently told CBS News.
- "President Clinton vetoed that bill several years
ago. It might be the time to try to bring it back. I've talked to the White
House before about this. The attorney general, John Ashcroft, is working
now he's got a task force working with some of us in the Senate to try
to come up with some acceptable legislation. Maybe this fall ...
- Where's Bush?
- Despite Shelby's apparent optimism, the Bush administration
thus far has not been exactly beating the drum for Shelby,s tough legislation.
- Last year just days before 9-11, Shelby returned to Capitol
Hill for what he thought would be a hearing on his plan to criminalize
the release of classified information. He was surprised, however, by a
last-minute request by Attorney General John Ashcroft to call off the hearing
and give Justice more time to evaluate it. The bill has been shelved since.
- Although Shelby said Ashcroft simply needed more time
to review the issue, a senior administration official told the Associated
Press at the time that the bill was problematic and unnecessary.
- Shelby was also in the van of those sharply critical
of Clinton's 11th-hour pardon Jan. 20, 2001 of Morison, who, after his
surprise gift from the president, admitted that he was wrong to leak satellite
photos of a Soviet aircraft carrier to Jane,s Fighting Ships. Morison justified
his leak of the classified pictures by arguing that the public needed to
be warned that the Soviet Union was preparing to greatly expand its naval
- At the time Shelby said the pardon only underscored the
need for new legislation explicitly criminalizing leaks. Those that lauded
the pardon argued that Morison,s 1984 transgression was a strained test
case that unfairly hammered relatively benign facts to fit the espionage
- Bruce agrees with Shelby's assessment. The senator has
said: "It's not an issue that's going to go away. The leaks are too
prevalent. The news people like all the leaks because they give them stories,
but there has been and will be damage to national security because of leaks.
They're just too prevalent.
- And Bruce,s hoped-for test case may indeed be on the
- Last month, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., asked the Justice
Department to investigate who told reporters about the NSA's intercepted
messages on the eve of the Sept. 11 attacks. The messages, referring to
an upcoming "match" and "zero hour, were not read and interpreted
until Sept. 12.
- Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government
Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, has opined that whoever
spoke those words now realizes that his communications were monitored.
"There is the potential for harm, Aftergood concluded.
- From Blaine Stevens
- Well, we can certainly understand the need for legitimate
National Security. However, to plug 'leaks,' isn't it wiser to FIND the
source of the leak rather than persecute the plumber to whom it is given
to for resolution?
- Further, how are journalists even to necessarily KNOW
which information, if any, they receive is actually classified? Journalists
must wade through mountains of material...not a small portion of which
is government DISinformation...alllegedly from 'inside sources.'
- Oh, and then there is that burdensome thing called THE
FIRST AMENDMENT which rather CLEARLY states:
- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably
to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
- One wonders when SWAT Teams will be given their new brown
shirts to wear...