House Intel Committee to Hold Hearing on Leaks

05.24.06 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announced (pdf) that it will hold a hearing on Friday May 26 on “the Media’s Role and Responsibilities in Leaks of Classified Information.”

There is no legislation on leaks currently before the Committee, and there are no governmental witnesses testifying at the hearing.

In an invited statement for the record (pdf), I attempted to put the issue into a larger context and to illustrate the fact that some leaks serve a constructive purpose.

“I believe it is an error to focus on unauthorized disclosures as if they were an isolated phenomenon, without consideration of the corrupted state of the classification system and the difficulties faced by whistleblowers who seek to comply with official procedures,” I wrote.

“From my own perspective, it seems likely that the benefits of leaks in preserving constitutional values greatly outweigh their risks to national security.”

The suggestion by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last weekend that the government might prosecute reporters who publish classified information was critiqued by Jacob Sullum of Reason Magazine in “When Speech Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Speak,” May 24.

Committee chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra has been an outspoken critic of classified leaks.

“Each year, countless unauthorized leaks cause severe damage to our intelligence activities and expose our capabilities,” he said in a speech last year.

“The fact of the matter is, some of the worst damage done to our intelligence community has come not from penetration by spies, but from unauthorized leaks by those with access to classified information.”