Directive 119 criminalizes any unauthorized communications between intelligence community employees and the press.
WASHINGTON, D.C.– The top spy in the U.S. is attempting to stifle communication between intelligence circles and the press by barring unauthorized discussions on “intelligence-related information,” classified or not.
Directive 119 now criminalizes any unauthorized communications between intelligence community employees and the press, and threatens violators with prosecution and the possible loss of their job.
“IC [Intelligence Community] employees […] must obtain authorization for contacts with the media on covered matters,” stated the directive signed by James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, on March 20. “And must also report unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters.”
The order received little attention until Steven Aftergood, a writer with the Federation of American Scientists, published a report on the directive on Monday.
“It is clearly intended to stifle pretty much all communication between staff members in the intelligence agencies and the press,” remarked Ken Gude, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “The directive fits in to a larger picture of an attempt to clamp down on unauthorized communication between government officials and the press on national security matters throughout the executive branch.”
Clapper’s mandate follows the 2013 revelations by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden who brought to light wide-ranging indiscriminate intelligence collection methods used by the agency both domestically and abroad.
The information he leaked to media outlets led U.S. President Barack Obama to commission a review of America’s intelligence gathering methods. The Washington Post and The Guardian US news outlets both received Pulitzer Prizes for public service for their reporting on Snowden’s leaked documents.
The national intelligence director, who has previously come under fire for denying the existence of such programs prior to Snowden’s disclosures, said this year that the best way to combat further leaks was to increase transparency.
“A major takeaway for us -- and certainly for me -- from the past several months is we must lean in the direction of transparency wherever and whenever we can,” said Clapper while testifying before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in January. “With greater transparency about these intelligence programs, the American people may be more likely to accept them.”
But the March directive appears to stand in sharp contrast to the director’s public statement.
Gude cautioned that the latest order may even have the opposite effects of what was intended. “It seems likely that it will backfire and could even push more people into the kinds of unauthorized disclosures that they’re trying to prevent.”
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