Today OpenTheGovernment.org joined our colleagues at POGO and others in objecting to a dangerous provision in the Senate’s recently-unveiled version of the 2013 intelligence authorization bill – which could come to the floor for a vote very quickly – that makes the unauthorized disclosure of any classified information a punishable offense, regardless of its public policy significance, and threatens free speech rights and due process of current and former federal employees.
This provision is one of twelve so-called anti-leak measures the leadership of the Intelligence Committees intends to include in the final bill. Unfortunately, not one of the twelve measures addresses strengthening protections for whistleblowers and reforming the classification system that marks massive amounts of information illegitimately as secret — persistent problems that aggravate the balance between the public’s right to know and legitimate security concerns.
As we have pointed out before, rushing an anti-leaks proposal into law runs the very real risk of setting bad policies in place that not only do not work but also endanger other critical national priorities. An informed public depends on many sources of information, not only those that are “authorized” by the government. A free press is only free to the extent that it can report all newsworthy information, including information that the government would prefer to withhold. As drafted, the anti-leaks proposal fails to hold our constitutional rights and responsibilities to the national defense carefully in balance. Each of these proposals should be given careful consideration with maximum public input.