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House intelligence bill limits CIA's ability to use journalists

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House intelligence bill limits CIA's ability to use journalists06/17/96 WASHINGTON, D.C.--In late May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an…

House intelligence bill limits CIA’s ability to use journalists

06/17/96

WASHINGTON, D.C.–In late May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an intelligence authorization bill containing a provision to limit the CIA’s use of journalists in clandestine operations, although it allows the practice with presidential approval or voluntary cooperation of journalists.

The measure, approved 417 to 6, states that the CIA may not use any American news correspondent “as an agent or asset for the purpose of collecting intelligence.”

The amendment allows the President to override the restriction if “it is necessary to address the overriding national security interest of the United States.” Also, the bill allows for voluntary cooperation of a journalist or anyone else “who is aware that the cooperation is being provided to an element of the United States intelligence community.”

The bill does not bar CIA agents from posing as reporters or from using foreign news correspondents as spies.

CIA director John Deutch announced last February that the CIA had the right to use journalists in clandestine operations under extraordinary circumstances and with the permission of the director. The announcement surprised journalism organizations, which assumed that the practice had been banned in the 1970s. Under the new bill, the President would have sole authority to allow the practice only if he certifies its necessity in writing.

Several news organizations, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, have sought an outright ban on the recruitment of journalists as spies and the use of media credentials as cover, arguing that all reporters abroad are placed in danger if they are perceived as potential spies. (H.R. 3259: Intelligence Authorization Act for 1997)