Because classification authority has been widely abused for many years, the credibility of the national security classification system has diminished sharply. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the frequency of unauthorized disclosures has increased accordingly. However, White House press secretary Michael McCurry said the new memorandum was prompted specifically by several recent leaks to the Washington Times.
The Times also reported the existence of two intelligence community components that track and analyze leaks: the Unauthorized Disclosure Analysis Committee and the Unauthorized Disclosure Analysis Center. The Analysis Committee "has analysts who read newspapers looking for classified information and try to determine its source." "The committee also maintains a database of reporters' names and the number of leaks attributed to them, a process that appears to violate laws that prohibit the CIA from spying on Americans," the Washington Times reported.
A copy of the President's memorandum was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists. The full text follows.
SUBJECT: Unauthorized Disclosure of Classified Information
I recently signed an Executive order reforming the Government's system of secrecy. While that order will sharply reduce the permitted level of secrecy within our Government, it also enables us to maintain necessary controls over information that legitimately needs to be guarded in the interests of national security.
As I said when I signed that Executive order, we must continue to protect information that is critical to the pursuit of our national security interests. In that regard, I have been extremely distressed by several recent, deliberate and unauthorized disclosures of highly sensitive, national security information. Such disclosures cannot and will not be treated as innocent "leaks" of Government information. They compromise serious national security secrets and put at risk lives and vital U.S. interests. Such disclosures also violate U.S. law, and will be referred to the Department of Justice for investigation, as appropriate, and prosecution.
This Administration is committed to openness in Government. I am also committed to vigorous policy debate within the Administration, and to a strong relationship with the press. However, none of these goals is served by or justify unauthorized disclosures of national security information.
While asking each of you to ensure that information is not improperly classified or overclassified, I am also asking you to impress upon your staff the necessity of protecting classified information from unauthorized disclosures. I also expect each of you to take appropriate administrative action against any Federal employee, regardless of rank, who discloses classified information, and, in appropriate cases, to refer such disclosures to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.
William J. Clinton