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Intelligence agencies defend new review policy

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  1. Freedom of Information
Under increasing public scrutiny over a new pre-publication review policy, the Office of the Director National Intelligence released a statement…

Under increasing public scrutiny over a new pre-publication review policy, the Office of the Director National Intelligence released a statement claiming the media has "misconstrued" the policy, but open government advocates aren't so sure.

In April, DNI put in place a policy that, among other things, prohibits current and former ODNI personnel from citing in books and publications to information that has been leaked to the public.

"The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security," the policy states.

The policy goes beyond prohibiting officials from releasing classified information and extends the prohibition even to citing news reports about leaked information.

ODNI released a statement May 9 stating that "recent media reports have misconstrued ODNI's policy" and "the revised policy is not significantly different from previous" policies enacted in 2007 and 2009.

But Steven Aftergood, director of the government secrecy program at the Federation of American Scientists, said in a post on the "Secrecy News" blog that "that assertion is hard to understand."

"First and foremost, the previous policies focused on protection of classified information, while the revised policy casts a much broader net," Aftergood wrote. "The newly revised policy extends to all intelligence-related information, whether classified or not … Another significant difference pertains to informal interactions with the press and the public, which now appear to be far more constrained than they were in the past."

The new policy requires employees to prepare an outline and get approval before engaging in "unstructured or free-form discussions" with the press. The old policy gave employees individual responsibility in those circumstances.

Aftergood also points out that the new policy includes a threat of civil and administrative penalties for noncompliance, including loss of security clearances.

"By introducing such uncertainty (and danger) into ordinary contacts with the public and the press, ODNI is likely to discourage its employees from any contact — or to drive them into anonymity — and to encourage public cynicism, while further impoverishing public discourse on intelligence policy," Aftergood wrote.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· Federal Open Government Guide

· rcfp.org: https://www.rcfp.org/wp-content/uploads/imported/homefront-confidential.pdf