New “Anti-Leaks” Bill Approaching; Hearing Possible; Bill Could be Re-Incarnation of Bad Legislation Vetoed Last Year
Society of Professional Journalists FOI Alert
Aug. 17, 2001
Vol. 6; No. 5A
Contact: Ian Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee chairman
firstname.lastname@example.org or 406/542-4400.
SPJ has learned that Congress may soon make another effort to make it a crime to divulge information about U.S. intelligence activity. Such a bill could make journalists subject to federal subpoena if they receive unauthorized releases of classified information, as well as federal contempt sanctions if they refuse to divulge the source of that information.
A year ago, Congress approved an anti-leaks provision into the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (H.R. 4392.) That provision (Sec. 304) would have made the unauthorized disclosure of classified information a felony punishable by prison terms.
Despite the significance of the decision, no public hearings were held on it, and the House and Senate passed it using unscheduled voice votes. Members of Congress, SPJ and other organizations called for President Clinton to veto the bill, which he did last November.
It’s believed a new bill will appear soon in the Senate once it re-convenes on Sept. 4. The most likely sponsor of the anti-leaks provision is Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) the ranking Republican member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Although no hearings are scheduled for September on that committee’s Web site, Charles Davis of the University of Missouri’s FOI Center reports that the Committee is poised to re-introduce the very same proposal in next month's markup of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2002. A hearing on the matter, featuring government and press witnesses, could happen as soon as Sept. 5.
SPJ’s First Amendment attorneys in Washington have heard similar reports from Capitol Hill.
SPJ remains opposed to any federal legislation that has the potential to make journalists accessories to criminal activity related to the dissemination of government information.
To read SPJ’s letter to the Senate in July 2000 opposing the legislation, visit:
To read SPJ’s National Convention resolution calling for a veto of the intelligence bill, visit:
Meanwhile, the most recent Senate Intelligence Committee report (for June-December 2000) may be found here:
Should this issue arise again, please be prepared to contact the following Senators on the Select Committee:
Bob Graham, Fla. (Chairman)
Carl Levin, Mich.
John Rockefeller, W.V.
Dianne Feinstein, Calif.
Ron Wyden, Ore.
Richard Durbin, Ill.
Evan Bayh, Ind.
John Edwards, N.C.
Barbara Mikulski, Md.
Richard Shelby, Ala. (Ranking Member)
Jon Kyl, Ariz.
James Inhofe, Okla.
Orrin Hatch, Utah
Pat Roberts, Kan.
Mike DeWine, Ohio
Fred Thompson, Tenn.
Richard Lugar, Ind.