SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
November 2, 2000

WAITING FOR A DECISION ON THE "LEAK" STATUTE

Senior Administration officials failed to reach a consensus yesterday concerning the legislation to criminalize disclosures of classified information that is awaiting a Presidential signature or veto by tomorrow.

The status of the issue and some of the confusion over what the bill actually means were described by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post today:

"This is an Official Secrets Act," Senator Daniel P. Moynihan told the New York Times. "It is my expectation that the president will say no," he added optimistically. A veto of the Intelligence Authorization Act, which contains the leak statute, would also block adoption of the Public Interest Declassification Act, a provision sponsored by Moynihan which he has sought for years. See:

The New York Times editorial board blasted the leak statute and urged a Presidential veto for the third time in about three weeks, helping immensely to raise the stakes and to clarify the national importance of the issue. See:

While the congressional intelligence committees serve as proxies for the CIA, former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey is opposing their determined efforts to increase the power of the executive branch. Woolsey incisively critiques the leak statute in today’s Wall Street Journal and argues for a veto. "President Clinton is concerned about his legacy. He has, here, an opportunity to enhance it substantially in the minds of all those who care about civil liberties."

Daniel Ellsberg, the prototypical public interest leaker writing in Salon magazine yesterday, asks "Would Clinton Ban Release of the Pentagon Papers?" Ellsberg urges a veto, but adds: "If the bill is approved by Clinton, I hope that other people will violate the law under the same circumstances that I did." See:

(Weirdly, a filing cabinet from the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist that was burgled at President Nixon’s behest will be on display at an exhibit on The American Presidency at the National Museum of American History that opens November 15.)

Attorney General Janet Reno defended the leak statute, somewhat anemically, at her weekly press briefing yesterday. Significantly, she admitted that the new law "would not result in a dramatically increased number of prosecutions" because the law did not even address the government’s real problem with leaks, which is "the ability to determine who leaked the information." See:


POLYGRAPH TESTING AND THE DOE NATIONAL LABS

When President Clinton signed the Defense Authorization Act on Monday, he blasted the Congress for surreptitiously inserting language that will impose polygraph tests on thousands of additional personnel in the Department of Energy nuclear weapons complex.

"I am deeply disappointed that the Congress has taken upon itself to set greatly increased polygraph requirements that are unrealistic in scope, impractical in execution, and that would be strongly counterproductive in their impact on our national security," the President stated. See:

"The Congressional requirement for polygraph testing has arguably diminished both science and security," writes Steven Aftergood in an essay on "Polygraph Testing and the DOE National Laboratories" in the November 3 issue of Science magazine, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. See:


SYMPOSIUM ON GOVERNMENT SECRECY SCHEDULED

"Government Secrecy in a New Administration and a New Century" is the topic of a day-long symposium to be held in Washington on Tuesday, December 5.

Speakers and panelists include outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, Newsweek Managing Editor Evan Thomas, Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, and more.

The event is jointly sponsored by the federal Information Security Oversight Office and the nonprofit James Madison Project. A brochure and registration form (300k in PDF format) may be downloaded here:

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