Intelligence chief takes new steps to crack down on leaks
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Monday announced new steps intended to cut down on leaks after a furious backlash from Congress.
The most significant measure is adding a new question to the polygraph tests used by intelligence agencies, which will ask officials whether they have disclosed classified information to members of the media, said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Clapper.
Clapper is also asking for a review of policies across the intelligence community looking at how officials report contact with members of the press, and he will consider changes if the agencies are inconsistent or insufficient, Turner said.
The second directive included in Monday’s announcement was a request for the Intelligence Community Inspector General to lead investigations of leaks when the Department of Justice declines to do so.
Clapper is considering a third measure to better monitor contact between the media and intelligence officials who have access to classified information.
The new measures are being issued as Congress is demanding investigations and vowing to write new laws of its own after a series of national security leaks made their way into the press, including stories on a U.S. cyberattack against Iran, a double agent infiltrating al Qaeda in Yemen and a terrorist “kill list.”
Attorney General Eric Holder appointed two U.S. attorneys to investigate the cyberattack and Yemen leaks, but Republicans have called for an independent special counsel to investigate, alleging that the DOJ investigation might not be independent.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has alleged the leaks were disclosed to boost President Obama’s reelection prospects, has introduced a non-binding Senate resolution calling for a special counsel that has 28 Republican co-sponsors.
Democrats have also been outraged over the leaks — Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called them the worst series of leaks she’d seen — but she and other Democrats say that the DOJ investigation is sufficient and will be independent.
Feinstein is working on legislation with the heads of the Senate and House Intelligence Committee to try and limit the number of leaks coming from the intelligence community.
Clapper said in a statement that the new measures were the “right thing to do” and were “in the interest of our national security.”
Steven Aftergood, a leading expert on government transparency and director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said that the impact of the new policies would depend on specifics.
“The wording of the polygraph question will make a lot of difference,” he said. “A relatively narrow polygraph question might be: Have you disclosed classified intelligence information to an unauthorized person? An overly broad question would be: Have you had any contacts with members of news media?”
Aftergood, who argues that robust public debate on intelligence policy is more important than stopping leaks, said that new measures direct from the administration are still preferable to legislation coming from Congress.
“Such measures are flexible and can be adjusted to adapt to changing circumstances,” Aftergood said. “Legislation by contrast is a blunt instrument. I don’t see a valid need for new legislation on leaks, and I hope that Congress will exercise some self-restraint on that front.”….TheHill.com