New intel orders: Don’t talk about leaks already in the public domain

posted at 9:21 am on May 9, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Public communications policy within the intelligence community will get new restrictions, reports the New York Times’ Charlie Savage and by Secrecy News’ Steven Aftergood, especially on leaked material. Currently, intel officials could comment on material already in the public domain as long as they took care not to confirm or deny its content. If DNI James Clapper accepts a proposed new rule, a gag rule will be placed on any such material:

The Obama administration is clamping down on a technique that government officials have long used to join in public discussions of well-known but technically still-secret information: citing news reports based on unauthorized disclosures.

new pre-publication review policy for the Office of Director of National Intelligence says the agency’s current and former employees and contractors may not cite news reports based on leaks in their speeches, opinion articles, books, term papers or other unofficial writings.

Such officials “must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information,” it says. “The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security.”

Failure to comply “may result in the imposition of civil and administrative penalties, and may result in the loss of security clearances and accesses,” it says. It follows a policy that James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, issued in March that bars officials at all 17 intelligence agencies from speaking without permission to journalists about unclassified information related to intelligence.

It’s worth musing on how this would have been received had the Bush administration proposed this kind of a rule. There would have been much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the media, claims of imperiousness and opacity, and certainly a large public debate about it. We might even have heard the ominous-yet-incoherent rumblings about a “unitary executive.”

And … it might have been legitimate. In essence, the new rule attempts to prevent people from discussing what everyone else is free to discuss. One former official called this a prior restraint on free speech, which is forbidden by the First Amendment. However, people who agree to accept security clearances have already accepted a “prior restraint” on their speech in regard not just to explicitly classified material, but also to sensitive material and proprietary material as well. Note that the consequences of speaking about this material do not include prosecution, but essentially a pink slip — after all, intel officials without security clearances are pretty much useless, except as spokespeople, and being glib about the work isn’t a boon for that position either.

Still, this seems excessive. The issue about lack of security in the intelligence field isn’t ex post facto discussions of leaks, it’s the leaks themselves. Once the material gets out into the open, why crack down on the people who comment on it to supply needed context? Go after the leakers, and the problem is solved. This makes the Obama administration look a little paranoid and obsessive — which is what the media used to say about the Bush administration for fewer reasons.


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This makes the Obama administration look a little paranoid and obsessive — which is what the media used to say about the Bush administration for fewer reasons.

6 years of obama… and for some reason when I read this, I laughed out loud. A little paranoid and obsessed is a tad lower on the bar, then what I was thinking.

upinak on May 9, 2014 at 9:29 AM

This makes the Obama administration look a little paranoid and obsessive — which is what the media used to say about the Bush administration for fewer reasons.

The Nixon administration was paranoid and obsessive. The rat-eared wonder and his people have a bunker mentality. They only allow White House photographers, tried to castrate the standing press poll, and otherwise want complete control over the story.

Happy Nomad on May 9, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Most Open and Transparent….Oh, never mind.

vnvet on May 9, 2014 at 9:31 AM

To be a part of the “glorious” Obama Regime you have to live in an alternative reality.

ConstantineXI on May 9, 2014 at 9:34 AM

Man Caused Disasters…

Shhhhhhh.

Electrongod on May 9, 2014 at 9:34 AM

Fundamental Transformation

Jackson on May 9, 2014 at 9:35 AM

The idea here presumably is if the spokespeople within the community can’t talk about it, the majority of the media — even if they’re being pressed to ask questions on issues like NSA spying or foreign intellegence failures in the Middle East or Eastern Europe — will simply take the ‘no comment’ replies, throw up there hands and simply stop covering the issue.

Which may be true for many of them.

But judging by the Whack-a-Carney fest that’s been going on recently in the White House press room, even some liberal reporters have enough self-esteem to get irked when they’re being stonewalled and lied to by their once BFFs in the administration. They may push back more as an emotionally jilted lover than out of any desire to see the full truth come out, but they won’t be happy with this latest ruling.

jon1979 on May 9, 2014 at 9:36 AM

In the old days this would have been a signal to scream “MY GOD! They’re planning on killing us all!” from the lefties.

Those were good times.

Bishop on May 9, 2014 at 9:37 AM

No worries…the lsm has his back

cmsinaz on May 9, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Hmmm… y’all racist!

Sorry best I could come up with, Debbie whatsername-shultz hasn’t delivered the talking points yet!

NiteOwl on May 9, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Didn’t they say Bush operated in a bubble?

Murphy9 on May 9, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Why hasn’t Clapper been charged with perjury yet?

Amazingoly on May 9, 2014 at 9:41 AM

people who agree to accept security clearances have already accepted a “prior restraint” on their speech in regard not just to explicitly classified material, but also to sensitive material and proprietary material as well.

when I was in military (dealt with nuke security) this also included “general knowledge” items, basically anything to do with what we had clearances for was a no comment. only difference really was we could, and would, be prosecuted and jailed.

dmacleo on May 9, 2014 at 9:44 AM

What’s the old saying.. something like “Be afraid, be very afraid!”

Meh, I’ll go with be armed, be very armed! Fear me! I have a government approved spoon and have no idea how to use it!

NiteOwl on May 9, 2014 at 9:50 AM

So much for the Benghazi witnesses.

DougDavis on May 9, 2014 at 9:58 AM

That has already been the case – even if it is leaked it is still classified.

kpm01428 on May 9, 2014 at 9:58 AM

First rule about fight club…

mjbrooks3 on May 9, 2014 at 9:59 AM

Clapper is a douche.

uatu1878 on May 9, 2014 at 10:02 AM

First rule about fight club…

mjbrooks3 on May 9, 2014 at 9:59 AM

You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight? ;0

Happy Nomad on May 9, 2014 at 10:02 AM

However, people who agree to accept security clearances have already accepted a “prior restraint” on their speech in regard not just to explicitly classified material, but also to sensitive material and proprietary material as well.
Note that the consequences of speaking about this material do not include prosecution, but essentially a pink slip — after all, intel officials without security clearances are pretty much useless, except as spokespeople, and being glib about the work isn’t a boon for that position either.

A new pre-publication review policy for the Office of Director of National Intelligence says the agency’s current and former employees and contractors may not cite news reports based on leaks in their speeches, opinion articles, books, term papers or other unofficial writings.

Square that circle.

If they aren’t going to prosecute, how do you keep a former official in line? I don’t buy it for a second.

What would they do to someone like Gates who waited until he left office to criticize the President? Does anyone honestly think that Obama would not have tried to use this policy to silence Gates?

Maybe this is just a CYA so they don’t have to answer questions when another Snowden, or the current one for that matter, release additional information. They can cite government policy that they can’t discuss it, end of discussion.

airupthere on May 9, 2014 at 10:03 AM

You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight? ;0

Happy Nomad on May 9, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Different fight club I think… Heh, heh

NiteOwl on May 9, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Why hasn’t Clapper been charged with perjury yet?

Amazingoly on May 9, 2014 at 9:41 AM

^^^^ THIS x eleventy!!!

ProudinNC on May 9, 2014 at 10:29 AM

“The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security the legacy of Barack Obama.”

The real reason.

BobMbx on May 9, 2014 at 10:43 AM

I’d say this administration is THE most openly and transparently closed and opaque.

RockinRickOwen on May 9, 2014 at 10:44 AM

when I was in military (dealt with nuke security) this also included “general knowledge” items, basically anything to do with what we had clearances for was a no comment. only difference really was we could, and would, be prosecuted and jailed.

dmacleo on May 9, 2014 at 9:44 AM

This.

AFAIK, until classified information is officially cleared for public release, if you have a clearance and had knowledge of the classified information as part of your duties, you are not legally allowed to discuss it – other than “no comment”.

Wanderlust on May 9, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Why hasn’t Clapper been charged with perjury yet?

Amazingoly on May 9, 2014 at 9:41 AM

It’s worth asking that question over and over.

David Blue on May 9, 2014 at 10:59 AM

This is nothing new. Anyone with a US security clearance knows they can not confirm or discuss leaked classified info just because it has become public.

It’s all too easy once you start talking to inadvertently provide additional details that may be more damaging than the original leak.

Unless the info is confirmed, the recipients have to consider whether the leaked info is genuine or disinformation. Thus, the damage may be mitigated by making enemies of the US reluctant to act on the info.

s1im on May 9, 2014 at 11:06 AM

This makes the Obama administration look a little paranoid and obsessive — which is what the media used to say about the Bush administration for fewer

…crickets!

KOOLAID2 on May 9, 2014 at 11:17 AM

Comrades it is going to be a glorious future, GLORIOUS!!

jukin3 on May 9, 2014 at 12:13 PM

When working in a related agency I was told that the agency cannot have an official position as that is one piece of information that can be linked with others to form a better idea of the sources and methods being used to collect such information. Thus ‘neither confirm nor deny’ stuff already leaked to the public.

That dates back to the Cold War era and as our enemies have grown so have their ability to put pieces of information together.

With that said, the entire IC has a backwards facing structure, crossing fiefdoms that often put agencies at odds with each other, and any of them can deny responsibility and accountability by pointing their finger up the chain, which now goes to the DNI and Congress has refused to hold the DNI accountable for ANYTHING. Plus the DNI has demonstrated little ability to coordinate assets or INTEL but has demonstrated a great amount of lying, fabrication and after-action CYA and denial.

Get rid of the DNI.

That is just a start but a good one.

ajacksonian on May 9, 2014 at 12:24 PM

“Do not discuss any horses that make it through this barn door.”

EvilMonk on May 9, 2014 at 1:21 PM