from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
October 17, 2000


In an early indication that new legislation to criminalize the disclosure of classified information will not have its intended effect, the Washington Times published a front page story today quoting liberally from a classified 1995 memorandum.

The memorandum, classified Secret, outlines an agreement between the United States and Russia concerning arms sales to Iran. Russia agrees not to undertake new arms sales, but declares its intent to fulfill existing obligations, the memorandum says.

The Washington Times article, reported by Bill Gertz, also quotes from a classified letter from Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin to Vice President Al Gore stressing that information concerning Russia nuclear cooperation with Iran was "not to be conveyed to third parties, including the U.S. Congress."

Under the new "leak" statute -- section 304 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY2001, which was adopted last week by Congress and awaits the Presidentís signature -- the disclosure of properly classified information to an unauthorized recipient is a felony.

Though the law does not penalize recipients of classified information such as journalists, stories like the one in todayís Washington Times now depend upon the availability of government officials willing to commit felonies. Evidently, there is no great shortage of such officials.

It appears that by adopting a statute that will be routinely defied, Congress has done little or nothing to control leaks. It has only promoted contempt for the law.

The Washington Times story is posted here:


According to the FBI Director Freeh and Attorney General Reno, the governmentís "paramount concern" in the Wen Ho Lee case all along has been to determine what happened to the missing tapes containing the nuclear weapons information Lee downloaded.

It seems incongruous, then, that over a month has passed since Wen Ho Lee was set free, with an apology from the judge, and yet the government has repeatedly deferred the opportunity to resolve its "paramount concern" by debriefing Lee.

That debriefing finally begins today, according to the Albuquerque Journal:


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