Tag Archive: Intelligence Authorization Act

Jul 26 2012

Plugging Intelligence Leaks or How to Cover Up War Crimes

The Senate Intelligence Committee passed an intelligence authorization bill, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The bill, co-sponsored by the chair of the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), passed the committee by a vote of 14 – 1 would:

[..] authorize intelligence funding to counter terrorist threats, prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, enhance counterintelligence, conduct covert actions and collect and analyze intelligence around the globe. [..]

The legislation includes a title on preventing unauthorized disclosures of classified information to improve the government’s ability to prevent and detect unauthorized disclosures that harm national security and investigate and punish those responsible. [..]

The approved bill includes a series of provisions to prevent leaks, including:

   

  • A requirement the executive branch notifies Congress when making certain authorized disclosures of intelligence information to the public;
  • A requirement for the Director of National Intelligence to improve the process for conducting administrative leaks investigations, including a requirement to proactively identify leaks and take administrative action when necessary;
  • A restriction on the number of intelligence community employees authorized to communicate with the media;
  • A provision to improve non-disclosure agreements and the penalties for non-compliance;
  • A prohibition on current and former intelligence officials entering into certain contracts with media organizations;
  • A report from the attorney general on possible improvements to the criminal process for investigating and prosecuting leaks; and
  • A provision to improve the intelligence community’s ability to detect insider threats.

The bill was a response to the recent high level leaks about cyber warfare against Iran, Obama’s “kill list” and a CIA underwear bomb plot sting operation in Yemen that Sen. Feinstein said came from the White House. A good portion of the bill is directed at curbing “leaks” that come from intelligence employees who talk to the media either with or without the permission of the White House. The details of these restrictions are vague and ill defined, as Kevin Gosztola at FDL points out:

Would the “number of intelligence community employees” be limited by establishing guidelines that prohibited lower level employees from talking with news organizations? Would it cut back on the number of individuals, who could speak in an official capacity about intelligence operations?

What exactly does the intelligence committee mean by “contract”? Is getting an intelligence official’s approval to put comments on the record a “contract”? Then there’s the part about this applying to “former intelligence officials” as well as “current” officials. Would this put limits on what people like NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake would be able to say publicly because they might share information that would reveal details on matters “sensitive” to national security? Would the “number of intelligence community employees” be limited by establishing guidelines that prohibited lower level employees from talking with news organizations? Would it cut back on the number of individuals, who could speak in an official capacity about intelligence operations?

What exactly does the intelligence committee mean by “contract”? Is getting an intelligence official’s approval to put comments on the record a “contract”? Then there’s the part about this applying to “former intelligence officials” as well as “current” officials. Would this put limits on what people like NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake would be able to say publicly because they might share information that would reveal details on matters “sensitive” to national security? [..]

Truth be told, Sen. Feinstein’s motives are not all that altruistic since she has a vested interest in the national security state which has enriched her and her military contractor husband. Nor is she interested in the original purpose for the creation of the Intelligence Committee. Created in the wake of the intelligence abuses discovered by the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, committee’s intent was to “provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” But, as Glenn Greenwald noted the Senator from California, who Greenwald says embodies the species of blatant corruption, has no interest in that but in fact does the opposite:

(S]he unyieldingly devotes herself to fortifying the wall of secrecy behind which the intelligence community operates, protecting whatever they do from accountability, and punishing anyone who impedes it.

Along those lines, one of Feinstein’s prime causes over the last several years has been to increase even further the extreme secrecy regime behind which the federal government operates, and to demand harsh punishment for whistleblowers. At the end of 2010, she demanded that the DOJ prosecute Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for violations of the Espionage Act of 1917, and earlier this month issued the same demand to an Australian newspaper, using a rationale that would apply every bit as much to The New York Times (inded a rationale that is now being applied by many in Washington to call for prosecutions of newspapers). Even though the Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many leakers for espionage as all previous administrations combined, Feinstein continues to go on Fox News and call for still more leak prosecutions.

This month, she joined with the most right-wing members of the House to demand investigations into recent leaks to the media (though because it’s White House officials who are the leakers – rather than Army Private-nobodies or obscure mid-level NSA employees – she notably refused to endorse any criminal prosecutions: only harmless Congressional ones). Yesterday, she pointed out the obvious – that at least some of these most controversial recent leaks come “from the ranks” of the Obama White House – and “said her committee would meet Tuesday to craft legislation that would address the leaks of classified information, including additional authorities and rules to stop the leaks”: in other words, enact new laws to strengthen the government’s secrecy power still further and permit still easier punishment for leakers.

In June, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Watergate, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein appeared on “Face the Nation” and warned against a McCarthey-esque “witch hunt” that is about to break out in Congress:

“You’ve got to be very careful about creating a witch hunt for sources and a witch hunt in which you go after reporters, because now more than ever we need real reporting on this presidency, on national security, on all these areas, and the press is not the problem here,” Bernstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“We’ve got plenty of laws, and if somebody inside is doing things with real national security secrets that he ought not, or she ought not, to be doing in terms of giving them to the press, that’s one thing,” he added. [..]

“It’s very difficult – I know from doing stories like this where you’re dealing with sensitive government secrets — to modulate and be careful and at the same time hold the government accountable for what they’re doing,” Woodward said. “This is an area that needs to be handled with great delicacy, and I’m not sure we have a political system that knows how to do anything with great delicacy.”

Bernstein noted that the press has generally handled sensitive information carefully in the past.

Sen. Feinstein, along with her right wing cohorts, has accomplished creating that legislation which would embody that “McCathy-esque witch hunt” that would jeopardize our civil liberties in the name of national security and Sen. Feinstein’s self interests.