In Guest Commentary on RollCall.com this morning, we give concrete ways the government should better engage with journalists on stories based on unauthorized disclosures (“leaks”). We argue that when reporters bring stories to agencies on national security and foreign affairs where they may be some sensitive information in the story, the reporters take seriously their obligation to mitigate against possible harms from any disclosures. The government, too, has an obligation to engage the press when these stories are brought to officials to avoid possible harms from such stories. The entire commentary is available here.
The action of the U.S. Department of Justice is an affront to the relationship between the government and news media that our nation’s founders established over two centuries ago. Journalists experienced in reporting on global affairs and national security respect the government’s need to keep information confidential to protect national security and carefully consider the government’s concerns when reporting on such matters. Last year Congress rejected a package of changes from the Senate Intelligence Committee that would have redefined the relationship between the government and press on reporting related to global affairs and national security. Until the Justice Department’s actions [More]
In honor of Sunshine Week, the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI) is pleased to recognize three leaders in government who will receive SGI’s Sunshine in Government Award (“Sunshine Award”) for their commitment and work to strengthen open government.
The nine members of the Sunshine in Government Initiative are pleased the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (S. 3454) does not include proposals that would have curtailed the flow of information to the public about national security and foreign affairs. The media takes seriously the obligation to consider potential harms from disclosures of sensitive information while reporting the news. These proposals simply went too far in cutting off vital information to the public about world events and national security issues and had not been subject to adequate consideration by Congress.
The nine members of the Sunshine in Government Initiative are pleased Senate negotiators dropped controversial proposals in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (S. 3454) that would have harmed news reporting on national security and foreign affairs. The media takes seriously the obligation to consider potential harms from disclosures of sensitive information while reporting the news. These proposals simply went too far in cutting off vital information to the public about world events and national security issues and had not been subject to adequate consideration by Congress.
Criticism of sections 505 and 506 of S. 3454, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (emphases added): The legislation would end contacts that often benefit both the government and the public by allowing the exchange of accurate information about vital national security issues and intelligence activities, including abuses requiring attention. As executive editor of The Washington Post for 17 years, I know firsthand that such conversations also help the news media avoid publishing information that, inadvertently, might harm national security. Without access to knowledgeable career officials, it would be much more difficult for the news media to determine [More]
As early as today the Senate could vote to fundamentally alter the flow of news to the public about national security and foreign affairs by passing unprecedented anti-leaks proposals. With only a few days to pass its annual intelligence authorization bill, leaders of the Senate leaders have discussed a plan to pass by unanimous consent as soon as today a modified package of the anti-leaks changes that would include the most problematic sections from the media perspective (Sections 505 and 506). If approved, the U.S. House would have to approve the new measures. The Sunshine in Government Initiative is highly [More]
Think tanks could have a hard time finding experts able to contribute to policy debates if anti-leaks proposals now before the Senate are enacted into law. These proposals are ill-considered, relatively unvetted, vague, overreaching (and under-reaching at the same time) and require significant further consideration by Congress before moving forward, much less passage. We hope that think tanks will join those already seeking the removal of Title V from the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (S. 3454).
We understand the Senate may vote tonight to pass modified versions of Sections 505 and 506 as part of the intelligence authorization bill (S. 3454) now before the Senate. While we have not seen the text of proposed changes, or even heard a general description of the changes, the Senate should not vote on these provisions, even in modified form, until the language that is proposed can be carefully considered.
Following is a section-by-section analysis of key provisions of Title V of S. 3454 that most directly impact newsreporting. This analysis was originally prepared on July 29, 2012. * * * A full Senate vote on the leaks provisions contained in Title V of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2013 (S. 3454) is premature. The Senate Intelligence Committee approved the provisions on July 24 and about a week later released the text to the public. While the Committee appropriately avoided changes to the Espionage Statutes, the provisions represent far-reaching changes that affect newsgathering and the people’s right to know. [More]