“Sen. Kit Bond has gone way too far in an effort to curtail the public’s right to information on government operations,” according to one of the leading newspapers in his home state of Missouri.
The Kansas City Star objected to a bill introduced this week by Senator Bond that would outlaw “leaks” or unauthorized disclosures of classified information. A similar provision was vetoed by President Clinton in 2000.
Opponents of such measures argue that the ability of the press to uncover and report on misconduct in classified programs often depends on leaks of classified information, and that reporting on such leaks serves a larger national interest.
So, for example, the fact that “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted” on detainees at Abu Ghraib prison was classified “Secret” when it was first reported by the press. The unauthorized disclosure of these findings, in a leaked copy of a classified report by Army General Antonio Taguba, triggered a series of investigations and continuing public controversy.
“Bond should withdraw his proposal immediately,” the Kansas City Star editorialized today. “It obviously is not well thought out.”
See “Law Would Go Against Ideals of Free Society,” Kansas City Star, August 4 (free but intrusive registration required).
“Over the past few years, we have seen unauthorized disclosures of classified information at an alarming rate,” said Senator Bond on the Senate floor on August 2.
“Each one of the leaks gravely increases the threat to our national security and makes it easier for our enemies to achieve their murderous and destructive plans. Each leak is a window of opportunity for terrorists to discover our sources and methods. Each violation of trust guarantees chaos and violence in the world.”
The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.