This information provided by The Federal Observer, http://www.federalobserver.com
By Dave Eberhart - NewsMax
WASHINGTON - "We've got to do whatever it takes - if it takes sending SWAT teams into journalists' homes - to stop these leaks," admonished James B. Bruce, vice chairman of the CIA's Foreign Denial and Deception Committee.
Whether the classified information is National Security Agency encrypted message intercepts of pre-Sept. 11 chatter, war plans for the invasion of Iraq, or the fact that U.S. intelligence was tracking Osama bin Laden's wireless phone calls, leaks have more than just Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney in an uproar.
'Presumptive Right to Leak'
Bruce, who has also served the CIA as deputy national intelligence officer for science and technology in the National Intelligence Council, admonished, "Somehow there has evolved a presumptive right of the press to leak classified information.
"I hope we get a test case, soon, that will pit the government's need to prosecute those who leak its classified documents against the guarantees of free speech. I'm betting the government will win," Bruce said to an audience this week at Washington's Institute of World Politics.
"What the media person should do is return the classified materials to the source with the proviso: 'I have no right to this material.'"
Look What Clinton Veto and Pardon Did
Bruce, a former professor of national security policy at National War College and current adjunct professor at Georgetown University, nailed home his points by touting the Shelby Amendment, vetoed by Bill Clinton, to make leaks of classified materials criminally actionable.
He decried Clinton's pardon of former Navy intelligence analyst Samuel L. Morison, the only government official ever convicted of leaking classified information to the media.
Current laws (under which Morison was charged and convicted) prohibit the release of information that would compromise national security. The measure sponsored by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., would impose a broader standard, making it a felony to leak anything that the government has deemed classified. Violators, including government officials of all kinds, would face a fine and up to three years in prison.
"I helped push legislation for years to make it easier to prosecute people who willfully and knowingly leak classified information," Shelby recently told CBS News.
"President Clinton vetoed that bill several years ago. It might be the time to try to bring it back. I've talked to the White House before about this. The attorney general, John Ashcroft, is working now - he's got a task force working with some of us in the Senate to try to come up with some acceptable legislation. Maybe this fall ..."
Despite Shelby's apparent optimism, the Bush administration thus far has not been exactly beating the drum for Shelby's tough legislation.
Last year, just days before 9-11, Shelby returned to Capitol Hill for what he thought would be a hearing on his plan to criminalize the release of classified information. He was surprised, however, by a last-minute request by Attorney General John Ashcroft to call off the hearing and give Justice more time to evaluate it. The bill has been shelved ever since.
Although Shelby said Ashcroft simply needed more time to review the issue, a senior administration official told the Associated Press at the time that the bill was problematic and unnecessary.
Shelby was also in the van of those sharply critical of Clinton's 11th-hour pardon Jan. 20, 2001 of Morison, who, after his surprise gift from the president, admitted that he was wrong to leak satellite photos of a Soviet aircraft carrier to Jane's Fighting Ships. Morison justified his leak of the classified pictures by arguing that the public needed to be warned that the Soviet Union was preparing to greatly expand its naval reach.
At the time Shelby said the pardon only underscored the need for new legislation explicitly criminalizing leaks. Those that lauded the pardon argued that Morison's 1984 transgression was a strained test case that unfairly hammered relatively benign facts to fit the espionage statutes.
Bruce agrees with Shelby's assessment. The senator has said: "It's not an issue that's going to go away. The leaks are too prevalent. The news people like all the leaks because they give them stories, but there has been and will be damage to national security because of leaks. They're just too prevalent."
And Bruce's hoped-for test case may indeed be on the horizon.
Last month, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., asked the Justice Department to investigate who told reporters about the NSA's intercepted messages on the eve of the Sept. 11 attacks. The messages, referring to an upcoming "match" and "zero hour," were not read and interpreted until Sept. 12.
Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, has opined that whoever spoke those words now realizes that his communications were monitored. "There is the potential for harm," Aftergood concluded.