from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
November 7, 2000


The President's veto of legislation to criminalize unauthorized disclosures of classified information could become the most momentous development in government secrecy policy since the 1995 executive order on classification. It is already prompting renewed questions about the workings of the secrecy system.

This afternoon, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon bluntly acknowledged that the classification system does not function satisfactorily.

"[The President] alluded to the fact that there can be over-classification or mis-classification," Mr. Bacon noted. "I don't think anybody disagrees with that. There are many problems with our classification system. And it was that realization, in part, that led to his decision to ... veto the bill."

See excerpts from today's Pentagon press briefing here:

The congressional "leak" statute was "a dangerous idea," the Washington Post editorialized today. "President Clinton deserves great credit for vetoing" it. See:

"Supporters of a measure to crack down on government employees who leak official secrets say they aren't giving up after President Clinton vetoed the proposal over the weekend," reported Neil King in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. "They will try again next year." See:

The Central Intelligence Agency issued a brief statement in response to the President's veto indicating that "We look forward to working with all parties to craft a new provision that helps preserve national security while fostering the necessary public discussion of important issues." See:

The President of the American Society of Newspaper Editors noted recently that his organization had asked the two major presidential candidates, Al Gore and George W. Bush, to outline their stances on "access to government information, the public's right to know, privacy rights and plans for press conferences if elected president. Neither as much as acknowledged the requests."


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