National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Oppose the anti-speech policy in the Intelligence Authorization bill

From our friends at Project on Government Oversight (POGO):

Dear Senator:

Our undersigned groups are writing to oppose a troubling provision in the Intelligence Authorization for Fiscal Year 2013, which 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. We urge you to oppose this misguided attempt to prevent disclosures of classified information. We agree that leaks that endanger our national security must be punished and prevented—but there are better ways to do this.
 
Section 511 grants the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and intelligence agency heads extraordinary authority to penalize federal employees in the intelligence community, including depriving them their pensions. They can do so without a criminal conviction, based on their “determination” that an employee knowingly violated a non-disclosure agreement by disclosing classified information to “unauthorized persons or entities.”
 
Unauthorized disclosures are already barred by non-disclosure agreements that personnel with security clearances must sign. In addition, current law allows the government to strip pension benefits from employees or former employees convicted of illegally disclosing classified information (Section 8312(c) of title 5). Revocation of a pension earned through decades of loyal service to this nation is an extraordinary penalty that should not be imposed unless the government proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Under this legislation, the DNI is provided far too much discretion to take pension benefits away from employees in secret with no oversight or judicial review.
 
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This policy does not protect our nation’s legitimate secrets, but instead opens the door to abuse and chills critical disclosures of wrongdoing.
 
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Section 511 is not an anti-leaks policy, it’s an anti-speech policy.
 
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We urge you to oppose the Intelligence Authorization Bill so long as the proposed policy in Section 511 remains.