Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001

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Summary (how summaries work)
A bill (H.R. 5630) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2001 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, the Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System, and for other purposes.


Contents

OVERVIEW

The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 was vetoed by President William Jefferson Clinton.[1]

The defeat of this Act has been attributed to the efforts of Scott Armstrong, Executive Director of Information Trust, who "realized what was occurring, and mounted a major lobbying effort to get Clinton to veto it, and he did."[2]

  • "President Clinton vetoed the legislation in November 2000 at the urging of press and public interest organizations, who derided the measure, somewhat inaccurately, as an official secrets act."[3]

The most objectionable sections of the Act were contained in Section 303 and Section 304:

  • "Section 303 of the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2001, S. 2507, would make it a crime for government employees to disclose classified information to the public."[4]

Also see historical background material on "Official Secrets Act."


Newspaper Association of America

An undated (circa 2001) item on the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) web site -- Official Secrets Act -- states:

"A hearing on the official secrets act in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was cancelled in response to a request from the Attorney General. Not only has the hearing been cancelled, but the Committee will not include in the 2002 intelligence authorization bill the official secrets act amendment sponsored by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), which would have criminalized the unauthorized disclosure of any classified information.

"While this onerous provision is dead for the present, the issue of unauthorized disclosure of classified information lives on. Representatives of the news media, including NAA, have been working since early this year to establish a dialogue with representatives of the Intelligence community in an effort to better understand legitimate concerns - on both sides of this issue. The dialogue is slated to begin shortly."


Cincinnati Post

An August 23, 2001 Editorial published in the Cincinnati Post -- "The Bureaucrat Protection Act" -- perhaps foreshadowed the current matter of an Unofficial Official Secrets Act as well as sheds light on the previous undated item.

"The United States does not have an Official Secrets Act, the all-purpose law the British government uses to suppress information it finds unpleasant. But it may get something like it if a proposal by Sen. Richard Shelby, the Alabama Republican, becomes law.

"The bill would subject U.S. government employees, current and retired, to jail terms of up to three years for leaking properly classified information. Government bureaucrats wield the secret stamp with abandon, and this law would potentially put acres of information off-limits to the public.

"Espionage and information theft are already illegal, and it is also a crime for a government official to disclose classified information related to national defense to someone who might injure the United States. This proposed law would extend to non-defense information and there would be no need to prove an intent to injure. Basically, it would allow federal officials to use the threat of prosecution to suppress disclosures that might prove embarrassing or awkward - money misspent, policies that failed, incompetent conduct, critical internal reports.

"The bill has the support of many government agencies, but bureaucracies will always come down on the side of greater secrecy. Clearly, the FBI would have been a lot happier if the public could have been kept ignorant about its missteps - leaked, for the most part - from Waco to Wen Ho Lee.

"From going after leakers, it would only be a short step for the government to go after the reporters who print and broadcast the leaked information. The Nixon administration would have been ecstatic to have had this law; it would have been the reporters and not the Watergate conspirators who ended up in jail.

"Information leaks may be a nuisance in the conduct of government, but they are a tolerable side effect of an open, democratic government.

"This measure actually passed last year without hearings, House or Senate debate or roll-call votes. The outcry when its contents became generally known caused President Clinton to veto it.

"The Bush administration has yet to take a position. President Bush should oppose the measure and if the bill gets as far as his desk likewise veto it."

Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 National Archives, December 6, 2000.
  2. John W. Dean, "Bush's Unofficial Official Secrets Act," FindLaw, September 26, 2003.
  3. Federation of American Scientists, "No New "Leak" Statute Needed, Says Ashcroft," FAS Project on Government Secrecy: Secrecy News, October 23, 2002.
  4. "Senate Threatens First Amendment," National Security Archives, George Washington University, September 29, 2000.

External resources

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