Cut It Out: Broad Coalition Calls on Congress to Remove Provision Criminalizing Reasonable Disclosures from Intelligence Authorization Act

New provision would allow prosecution of reporters (or anyone) who discloses identity of current or retired operatives

Washington, D.C. — Pushing against a recent move by the Central Intelligence Agency to vastly expand the definition of “covert agent” that would unreasonably criminalize disclosure of current and retired operatives’ identities, 30 top government openness, accountability, and human rights groups have written a letter to Congress calling for the removal of a provision from the Intelligence Authorization Act. Further raising the secrecy stakes is the CIA’s inclusion of its torture program as part of the justification for the expansion, which is generating strong criticism from civil society organizations and some congressional leaders.

Current law prohibits disclosing the identities of intelligence employees who serve or have served abroad within the previous five-year period. But the proposed CIA provision would expand the provision, making it a crime to disclose the identity of agents regardless of whether they ever served overseas, and apply this broad prohibition indefinitely.

“Even for an organization as clandestine as the CIA, this is a blatant attempt to obstruct any access to information and limit oversight of wrongdoing by CIA operatives,” said Lisa Rosenberg, executive director of Open The Government. “If it becomes law, the expansion of criminal penalties will chill the work of civil society organizations and the media.”

Unbeknownst to most Americans, if approved the bill could be passed as early as mid-July.

“Congress’ move on this must be guided by common sense: take out the provision because there are laws already in place that sufficiently protect the intelligence community,” said Rosenberg. “Allowing for such a broad expansion not only weakens congressional oversight but sends a message to Americans that their government cannot be held accountable to them and is willing to  institute irrational laws to make this so.”

Read the coalition’s letter on why allowing the bill to become law would be damaging to transparency, oversight and accountability here.