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 concerned that the Senate may approve these measures with no significant changes. If passed, these provisions could dramatically alter the flow of news to the public on matters concerning national security and foreign affairs.
It is possible those sections have been altered, perhaps significantly, or remain unchanged. A revised version has not circulated for input.
Public statements of concern or opposition to these proposals may help stop the Senate from approving these proposals.
By way of background, Section 505 as passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee would ban for one year any current or former government employees, including outside experts serving on advisory boards for the intelligence community, holding a to secret security clearance any time in the last three years, from entering into a contract or “other binding agreement” to provide commentary or analysis on any government activity relating to classified government activities.
Section 506 as approved by the committee would ban all background briefings or contacts between the media and anyone in the intelligence community except an agency director, deputy director, or a designated public affairs official.
Journalists depend on these briefings and communications with government experts on a range of matters — sharing information that is not classified — to put news events in accurate context and to inform the public of the challenging policy choices facing the U.S.
These proposals are included in Title V of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (S. 3454) that the Senate Intelligence Committee approved earlier this year. For more information, see the Sunshine in Government Blog: