NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · WASHINGTON, D.C. · Freedom of Information · March 15, 2007
Bill passes Senate without leak amendment
March 15, 2007 · The Senate has approved a homeland security bill that does not include a controversial amendment that would have criminalized the disclosure of classified information in certain congressional reports.
Senators voted 60-38 on Tuesday to approve the bill to implement the remaining recommendations of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks.
On Friday, several proposed amendments to the bill were dismissed as irrelevant, including one by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that would have criminalized leaks of some information about counterterrorism proposals.
The amendment would have applied to members of Congress, House and Senate staffers, and other individuals who have authorized possession of or access to classified information in reports submitted to Congress related to three bills: the Sept. 11 recommendations, the Patriot Act, and an intelligence reform bill.
Kyl proposed that those people could be prosecuted for publishing that information or communicating it to an “unauthorized person,” or for otherwise using the information “in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States.” Violators could be punished by fines and up to 10 years in prison.
Open government advocates and media groups had said the bill could chill speech on anti-terrorism programs of great interest to the public.
The amendment, which was introduced March 2, was a narrower version of an amendment Kyl first sought to tack on to a federal data mining bill. That amendment would have prohibited disclosing information about a broad range of counterterrorism programs, according to a draft first obtained by Cox Newspapers.
The House passed its version of the Sept. 11 commission bill in January.
(S.4, Improving America’s Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007) — RG