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Publication date: Sep. 6, 2006

SEJ OPPOSES "OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT" LEGISLATION

SEJ is opposing a Senate bill that would likely silence most reporters' confidential sources within government by broadly criminalizing unauthorized disclosure of classified information. The opposition was communicated to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders in a Sept. 6, 2006, letter from SEJ President Perry Beeman.

The Environmental Protection Agency is one of the agencies that can classify information it does not want the public to know about, and the harsh three-year jail term imposed by the bill (S 3774) would motivate any government employee unsure of how it works to err on the side of silence.

The bill was introduced Aug. 2 by Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has not yet taken any action on it. It is identical to one that was attached to the Intelligence Authorization bill in 2000 and pocket-vetoed by President Clinton.

Leaking classified information is already illegal when prosecutors can show harm to national security. The new legislation would abandon that test. While the bill would make it illegal for government employees to reveal government wrongdoing if such information was classified, it would leave in place the current claims by the White House that anything the White House leaks, even anonymously and informally, is automatically declassified.


Last revised January 22, 2013

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