from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 70
July 26, 2005


House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) said yesterday that unauthorized disclosures of classified information had severely damaged U.S. intelligence and indicated that his Committee would hold hearings later this year to consider legislative action on the matter.

"Each year, countless unauthorized leaks cause severe damage to our intelligence activities and expose our capabilities," Mr. Hoekstra told the Heritage Foundation yesterday. "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."

A relative newcomer to this well-trodden field, Chairman Hoekstra made some factual errors in his remarks.

Thus, he was incorrect to state that "there has only been one prosecution for non-espionage disclosure of classified information in the last 50 years."

While there has been only one such conviction, that of Samuel L. Morison, there have been two prosecutions, including that of Daniel Ellsberg.

See "Secrets and Leaks: The Costs and Consequences for National Security," remarks of Rep. Pete Hoekstra at the Heritage Foundation, July 25:


Most of the questions that Rep. Hoekstra proposed to ask about leaks in upcoming hearings were already asked and officially answered by the U.S. government as recently as three years ago.

In 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft provided a report to Congress on unauthorized disclosures of classified information which concluded that the executive branch already had the tools it needed to combat leaks and that new legislation was not required.

"Given the nature of unauthorized disclosures of classified information that have occurred, ... I conclude that current statutes provide a legal basis to prosecute those who engage in unauthorized disclosures, if they can be identified," the Attorney General wrote.

"Accordingly, I am not recommending that the Executive Branch focus its attention on pursuing new legislation at this time."

(Like Mr. Hoekstra -- and presumably serving as his source -- Mr. Ashcroft also mistakenly wrote that "only a single non-espionage case of an unauthorized disclosure of classified information has been prosecuted in over 50 years.")

See Report to Congress on Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified Information from Attorney General John Ashcroft, October 2002:


Jack Nelson, the distinguished former Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times provided a reporter's perspective on leaks in an op-ed last week. In a nutshell:

"Without leaks, without anonymity for some sources, a free press loses its ability to act as a check and a balance against the power of government."

See "Without leaks, truth dries up" by Jack Nelson, Los Angeles Times, July 21:

Complaining of what he considers excessive executive branch controls on unclassified information, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) last week said, "I, for one, would like more leaks, not less from this White House." See:


Some of the bluntest criticism of Bush Administration policy on military interrogation of detainees comes from within the military itself.

In a debate on the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) introduced several "recently declassified" internal memoranda from various Navy Judge Advocate General personnel.

"Basically these memos are telling us that the proposed interrogation techniques dealing with the war on terror, suggested by the Department of Justice, sent over to Department of Defense, were such a deviation from the normal way of doing business that it would get our own people in trouble," Sen. Graham said.

"It was such a deviation from the normal way of doing business that we would lose the moral high ground in fighting the war on terror," he said.

Senator Graham spoke in favor of an amendment (no. 1557) to the Defense Authorization Act that he co-sponsored with Senator McCain and others to establish uniform standards for the interrogation of detainees held by the U.S. military.

The record of the July 25 floor debate, including the declassified memoranda presented by Sen. Graham, may be found here:

As of yesterday, the amendment had not yet come to a vote.

The Bush Administration said it "strongly opposes" this and related amendments that would regulate the detention of suspected terrorists.

"If legislation is presented that would restrict the President's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill," the White House said in a July 21 statement on the Senate bill.


Some reports of the Congressional Research Service recently obtained by Secrecy News include the following.

"Naval Transformation: Background and Issues for Congress," updated June 2, 2005:

"Navy CVN-21 Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress," updated May 25, 2005:

"Panama: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations," updated May 20, 2005:

"Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress," updated May 9, 2005:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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