New Pentagon Statement on Leak Policy

Following a closed House Armed Services Committee hearing on leaks yesterday, the Department of Defense issued a statement outlining its multi-pronged effort to deter, detect and punish unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

“The Department of Defense has taken a comprehensive approach to address the issue of national security leaks,” the statement said.  “Personnel in all components are continuously working to protect classified information and identify those who do not uphold their obligations to protect national defense information.”

Several of the steps announced have previously been described and implemented, such as new guidance on protection of classified information and physical restrictions on use of portable media to download classified data.  Other measures involve new tracking and reporting mechanisms, and the ongoing implementation of an “insider threat” detection program.

Although many of these changes originated in response to WikiLeaks-type disclosures of DoD information two years ago, their repackaging now might serve to diffuse congressional anger over more recent high-profile leaks, and to preempt more extreme legislative responses.

The new DoD statement does not admit any valid role for unauthorized disclosures under any circumstances.

To the contrary, the Secretary of Defense affirmed that the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs is the “sole release authority for all DoD information to news media in Washington.”

In other words, DoD Public Affairs is the only legitimate source for defense news and information.  It follows that freedom of the press means the unfettered ability of reporters to write about what the DoD Public Affairs Officer says.

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