Secrecy News

How to Conduct Classified Discovery Interviews

In preparation for the trial of Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former CIA employee who is accused of unauthorized disclosure of classified information, prosecutors this week wrote to the defendant’s attorney explaining how pre-trial interviews of potential witnesses in the case are to be conducted.

First of all, “If you intend to discuss classified information during an interview, the potential witness must possess the requisite security clearances.”  But “You may not rely on the representations of the potential witness as to the status of that person’s clearances,” wrote U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride (pdf) on May 9.  We will verify whether the potential witness has the requisite clearance.”

You may not ask “the true identity of covert employees.”  You may not discuss “the background of covert employees.”  You may not ask questions “about intelligence operations other than that which has been disclosed to you in the discovery materials.”

And so on.  “With these restrictions, which we have reviewed with intelligence officials, we believe that you may conduct interviews with potential witnesses consistent with the Protective Order previously entered by the Court,” the US Attorney wrote.

2 thoughts on “How to Conduct Classified Discovery Interviews

  1. No one seems to say this – perhaps it became taboo after Phil Agee – but there is nothing sacrosanct per se about the identity of an intelligence agent or officer, or about the ability of an intelligence organization to do its work. Simply because a person or organization does covert work does not mean that he or she or it is entitled to do such work, or that a given secret enterprise must remain invisible except to those in the know. It depends on what is being done, what interests are being advanced or harmed through the concealment of a person’s or organization’s identity, at what cost, and with what impact on law and morality. These propositions should be obvious to any society with a minimum of democratic sensibility, but then again we have become psychotic over the last few decades.

  2. i do not understand this at all.

    seems like the laywers will have to have a 10 minute discussion after each and every question is asked.

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