From the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government:
Once again, an urgent request for action in response to efforts by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, to criminalize the leaking – and publishing – of classified information.
Sen. Kyl first sought to attach to a data mining bill being considered by the
Judiciary Committee what can only be described as a backdoor approach to an official secrets act. When the bill was held over, at least in part because its sponsor considered the amendment unfriendly, Sen. Kyl withdrew it and then submitted a rewritten version as a floor amendment to Senate Bill 4, which would enact recommendations of the 9/11 commission. That bill could be voted on as early as mid-week.
The modified amendment is not as sweeping as the earlier version but it is still dangerous revision of the Espionage Act and its chill would inevitably extend far beyond the classified information included. The new amendment makes it a crime to leak or “publish” any classified information contained in reports provided to Congress. These required reports -- 28 in all -- are detailed in three statutes identified in the amendment. (A copy is attached.)
Even as modified, the amendment is a dangerous overhaul of the espionage statutes and dramatically lowers the burden that the government must meet in order to prosecute a government leaker. Instead of proving, as required by current law, that the individual has reason to believe the information could be used to the injury of the United States, the government would only have to prove the individual used the information "in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States". This lower standard could lead to a chilling of daily communications between the government and the media.
In addition, amendment makes it a crime to “publish” any classified information in the reports. If one of these reports says that a particular US port is vulnerable because local officials have been negligent in providing adequate security, and that is reported in the local newspaper, the reporters and publisher could be prosecuted for informing local citizens that they may be at risk,
Once again, Sen. Kyl seeks to use the amendment procedure to avoid the give and take of hearing and debate and a full and thoughtful discussion of whether any new law involving leaks are needed.
From our soundings on the Hill, there is considerable concern that if the amendment is added to the 9/11 bill it could be approved by the Senate.
This is not the time to wait and see what happens. Please share this and impress on your members the urgency of raising all our voices.
Monday, March 05, 2007
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