Secrecy News

DNI Updates Policy on Classified Leaks

Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats last month issued a newly revised directive that details intelligence community procedures for dealing with leaks of classified information. See Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified National Security Information, Intelligence Community Directive 701, December 22, 2017.

The directive formalizes several notable developments in intelligence policy regarding leaks:

*    It presents an expansive definition of an unauthorized disclosure that includes not simply disclosure but also the “confirmation” or “acknowledgement” of classified information to an unauthorized person.

*    It mandates the use of “audits and systems monitoring” in order “to detect and attribute attempts to bypass or defeat security safeguards.”

*    It specifies that polygraph examinations used by intelligence agencies shall “address the issue of unauthorized disclosures of classified information” as part of the security vetting process.

*    It notes that the DNI may prohibit the IC Inspector General from investigating a leak, pursuant to 50 USC 3033(f), “if the Director determines that such prohibition is necessary to protect vital national security interests of the United States.” The DNI is obliged to notify the congressional intelligence committees if he ever exercises this authority.

The new directive defines a hierarchy of unauthorized disclosures based on their severity and the feasibility of investigating and prosecuting them. “This process is designed to identify which incidents can be closed without further review, which call for an internal investigation, and which should be referred [to the Department of Justice] with a request for a criminal investigation.”

The directive updates and expands the provisions of a prior version that was issued in 2007 by then-DNI Mike McConnell.