NA IMPRENSA INTERNACIONAL > IMPRENSA E GOVERNO
A Pernicious Drive Toward Secrecy
Reproduzido do New York Times [3/8/12].
In response to recent news media disclosures about the so-called kill list of terrorist suspects designated for drone strikes and other intelligence matters, the Senate Intelligence Committee has approved misguided legislation that would severely chill news coverage of national security issues.
Drafted in secret without public hearings, the provisions are part of the intelligence authorization bill for fiscal 2013. If enacted, the bill would undermine democracy by denying Americans access to information essential to national debate on critical issues like the extent of government spying powers and the use of torture.
Under the measure, only the director, deputy director and designated public affairs officials of intelligence agencies would be permitted to "provide background or off-the-record information regarding intelligence activities to the media." Briefings on sensitive topics by lower-level or career officials, who are not quoted by name, would be prohibited, shutting off routine news-gathering and exchanges that provide insight into government policies. None of these traditional press activities compromise the nation's safety. There is no exception carved out for whistle-blowers or other news media contacts that advance the public's awareness of government operations, including incidents of waste, fraud and abuse in the intelligence sphere.
The bill would even curtail the flow of unclassified information. It draws no distinction between information that is properly classified and the vast pile of information that poses no national risk but has been deemed secret thanks only to a dysfunctional system of overclassification of government documents.
It contains a constitutionally questionable provision that would prohibit a wide range of former government employees from providing paid commentary, including opinion articles, on "matters concerning the classified intelligence activities of any element of the intelligence community or intelligence related to national security." Yet the bill, which would enhance senior officials' ability to engage in politically motivated leaks, is not tailored to prevent disclosures truly harmful to national security. Those are already illegal under current law.
Other troubling provisions would require notice to both the Senate and House intelligence committees of authorized disclosures of intelligence information and allow the government to strip intelligence officers who disclose even benign classified information of their pensions.
The measure passed the Senate Intelligence Committee with only a single member, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, casting a dissenting vote. But it has been justly denounced by former officials and civil liberties groups. The White House and House Intelligence Committee have not yet lent their support. That offers hope that this dangerous bill can be stopped.