In an attempt to "deter and detect" officials leaking information to news media organizations, the head of the country's intelligence community unveiled new measures on Monday, including lie detector tests and inspector general investigations, for preventing unauthorized disclosures.
“These efforts will reinforce our professional values by sending a strong message that intelligence personnel always have, and always will, hold ourselves to the highest standard of professionalism,” said James R. Clapper, director of National Intelligence, in a press release. “All [Intelligence Community] leaders are reinforcing this same message and fully cooperating as we take steps to address this critically important issue, which has profound implications for current and future intelligence capabilities and our nation’s security."
Monday’s announcement reflects concerns of members of Congress, from both sides of the political spectrum, over recently published investigative news articles on cyber warfare, drone strikes and other classified information that was leaked to the press.
“The leaking of classified national security information is intolerable at any level, but the parade of recent leaks requires action. We must break this culture of unauthorized disclosures,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a press release.
Under the new rules, officials from the intelligence community's coalition of 17 agencies and organizations will be asked if they leaked any restricted information during routine counterespionage polygraph examinations. If suspected of sharing information to the news media, they also may be required to undergo a subsequent lie detector test that asks about the disclosure of classified information.
Alleged whistleblowers may also be subject to internal investigations by the new Intelligence Community Inspector General, even in cases where U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder – who recently appointed two prosecutors to lead investigations into unauthorized leaks to the news media – declines to prosecute.
Since 2009 the Obama administration has prosecuted six leak-related cases, twice as many as there were under all previous presidents combined, according to The New York Times.
But investigative reporters who regularly rely on such leaks have found that the recent surge in criminal investigations into government whistleblowers has impeded their ability to gather confidential information from sources, according to Eric Lichtblau, a New York Times reporter in Washington, D.C.
“Federal officials who may have important information to share with the public are afraid to speak with reporters for fear of getting caught up in a leak investigation, losing their jobs, and incurring tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees,” Lichtblau added.
Former Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” earlier this month to mark the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, defended the news media against recent attacks concerning the leaks that often inform investigative reports.
"You've got to be very careful about creating a witch hunt for sources, and a witch hunt in which you go after reporters, because now more than ever we need real reporting on this presidency, on national security, on all of these areas," Bernstein said.