Transparency

U.S. Intel Folks Ordered to Just Pretend Leaks Didn't Happen

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You're all hired.
Credit: Len Radin / photo on flickr

Forget about closing the barn door after the horses get out. The latest orders from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) are to pretend that there are no horses, they didn't get out, and those large whinnying creatures you see cantering about the meadow are not horses. From The New York Times:

A new pre-publication review policy for the Office of Director of National Intelligence says the agency's current and former employees and contractors may not cite news reports based on leaks in their speeches, opinion articles, books, term papers or other unofficial writings.

Such officials "must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information," it says. "The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security."

Failure to comply "may result in the imposition of civil and administrative penalties, and may result in the loss of security clearances and accesses," it says. It follows a policy that James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, issued in March that bars officials at all 17 intelligence agencies from speaking without permission to journalists about unclassified information related to intelligence.

A professor at Brown University notes that this is prior restraint—telling people they cannot quote information that is now within the public sphere whether the administration wanted it to be or not—and is a violation of the First Amendment rights of those affected.

Furthermore, the Times notes, the policy being updated once referred to the need to protect classified information. This new policy is broader: "to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of information." That's an extremely important and problematic twist. The Department of Justice, for example, has a reputation for overclassifying documents and keeping information secret that shouldn't be kept secret. Such a policy actually incentivizes ODNI to overclassify information to keep secret information that isn't pertinent to national security, but is problematic or embarrassing, from being discussed publicly by people connected to intel.

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  1. Oh please, dear? For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint…

    1. They did, but these orders only affect employees and contractors, so that puts it in a different light.

      I agree that this is incredibly stupid of them, but they don’t deal well with the whole oversight, accountability, rule of law thingie.

    2. I’m finishing my coffee…

  2. a violation of the First Amendment rights of those affected.

    Meh. They knew they had no rights when they took the job.

    1. More like to get the job they had to voluntarily agree to give up certain rights.

      1. Right you are. Leaving aside the fact that it is very bad Operational Security (OPSEC) to verify publicly available information if you know what the real answer is. If you have been granted a security clearance, and you verify public information, then you run the risk of having your clearance pulled and losing your job. I wouldn’t say no rights, but as close to no as one can get.

  3. There never were any horses.

  4. I think more accurate would be to point out that it is the DEFINITION of prior restraint.

    However, Professor Brownie could have also noted that it is entirely consistent with Progressive-Governance to believe that Reality is What They Say It Is and Not What Everyone Can See For Themselves.

    Progs DO have a wonderful ability to turn on a dime and change history on command. Obama was Always for Gay Marriage. The Wars Are Over. Bush ‘Stimulus’ was handouts to Big Banks! Obama ‘Stimulus’ was saving the Economy of the universe! Fracking has always been opposed by Environmentalists. Etc.

    1. “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”

    2. And, of course, it is precisely that mindset and no other that is an absolute requirement for an authoritarian regime.

      Trust no one in government. Be skeptical. Hold them accountable when they lie, cheat, steal, exceed their legal authority, or otherwise abuse power. If we just did that, which is insanely warranted by history and the present, we’d not be so close to the edge of the cliff.

  5. Using pictures of people in monkey masks to criticize a federal agency? RACIST LIBERTARDIANS!

  6. Such officials “must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information,” it says.

    And they should lie under oath, preferably before Congress.

  7. Such officials “must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information,” it says. “The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security.”

    Next up: Media pick up on officials avoiding mention of certain things already “out there” and infer this stuff is “sensitive”. New policy then requires officials to not use any “information” at all, other than bold-faced lies.

  8. Most transparent admin EVAH!

  9. From a purely technical point of view, there may actually be some scientific/NSA-type methodological basis for not ‘adding to the circulation-momentum of un-approved data-points’.

    To clarify what I mean = information accrues ‘value’ by virtue of how a) widely it is spread and b) quickly accepted as ‘given’ by default. This is what we mean when we say a ‘fact’ is ‘common knowledge’. I don’t mean to get all Epistemological and shit; rather, to look from the POV of an information-gathering crew like NSA and how (say, like Google) they would ‘score’ or evaluate an information-point.

    Google (at one point at least) came up with the clever idea of scoring a given site’s relevance by ‘how many other sites *link* to it.’. I’m sure someone out there with an academic background in information sciences or whatever knows what this is called. Further, you could similarly weight “who” is linking to that site (or information)- with greater weight applied to sites that have some ‘official’ rubric.

    By choosing to officially ‘ignore’ certain facts, “officialdom” does materially help at least *slow* the official acceptance of those facts.

    by changing this policy to apply to “anything” rather than just information that is technically “classified”, I think its just a more-candid admission by the Administration that Everything Is Political, and Propaganda is Necessary and Legitimate.

    I think this has always been true to some degree

    1. …””officialdom” does materially help at least slow the “Wider-Public” acceptance of those facts.””

      correction there

    2. STFU and quit helping the terrorists!

      1. The foreign ones.

    3. Well, the government did invent parallel construction, so it would be interesting to see this used against them.

  10. And, in other news, the chocolate ration has been increased.

    Raise a glass of Victory Gin in salute to Big Brother.

  11. Imagine my relief at not being subject to this one, although they always come up with some other construct to nail you with.

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