Congress Should Carefully Consider Any Effort to Address Leaks of Classified Info

Last week the leadership of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees announced that they are working quickly to draft legislation to address leaks of classified information in order to have the language included in the final version of the Fiscal Year FY 2013 Intelligence Authorization bill. The Intelligence Committees feel a sense of urgency to "do something" in the face of a spate of recent high-level leaks involving the CIA's controversial secret drone program, the Stuxnet virus aimed at derailing Iran's nuclear program, and more. However, rushing to pass legislation to deal with the problem without careful consideration and the widest possible public input on the complex set of issues involved, runs the very real risk of writing into law policies that do not work and endanger other critical national priorities.

The issues at stake in any legislation to address leaks of classified information includethe tension inherent in both providing rigorous safeguards to avoid disclosure of legitimate national security secrets and also ensuring adequate public access to information about government programs to provide accountability. Further, any reform of the classification system should ensure that classified systems are not overburdened by information that does not need rigorous protections. Such unnecessary or inappropriate classifications make the system more difficult to manage and undermine respect for classification labels. Additionally, the civil liberties and free speech rights of public servants must not be compromised. The legislation must protect people who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, and ensure there are safe channels for lawful disclosures of wrongdoing. Seeking input from the public and experts in the field will help Congress ensure that any legislation intended to stop leaks of classified national security information appropriately addresses these issues.

OpenTheGovernment.org will be working with our partners and allies in the coming weeks to urge Congress to make sure it addresses the leaks of classified information with the widest possible public input into any legislation and with the most open process possible. Keep up with the issue by checking our homepage or following @OpenTheGov on twitter.

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