If Only Stopping Leaks Were As Easy As Condemning Them

Today the House of Representatives is debating the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2007. Congressman Rick Renzi (R-AZ) will offer an amendment in the form of a resolution expressing the view that illegal leaks of classified information should not be tolerated. Here is the text of Renzi’s resolution:

1. The Supreme Court has unequivocally recognized that the Constitution vests the President with the authority to protect national security information as head of the Executive Branch and as Commander-in-Chief;

2. The Supreme Court has recognized a compelling government interest in withholding national security information from unauthorized persons;

3. The Supreme Court has recognized that secrecy agreements for government employees are a reasonable means for protecting this vital interest;

4. The Supreme Court has noted that “It should be obvious that no one has a ‘right’ to a security clearance”;

5. Unauthorized disclosures are most damaging when they have the potential to compromise intelligence sources and methods and ongoing intelligence operations;

6. Potential unauthorized disclosures of classified information have impeded relationships with foreign intelligence services and the effectiveness of the Global War on Terrorism;

7. Media Corporations and Journalists have improperly profited financially from publishing purported unauthorized disclosures of classified information;

Therefore, it is the Sense of Congress that the President should utilize his constitutional authority to the fullest practicable extent, where appropriate, to classify and protect national security information, and to take effective action against persons who commit unauthorized disclosures of classified information contrary to law and voluntary secrecy agreements.

It’s unclear to me why the text defers so much to the Supreme Court. Intelligence and security matters are more immediately the province of Congress than the courts. Paragraph 6 is the key point, but I’m not sure what the reference to “potential” unauthorized disclosures means. The leaks haven’t been potential, they’ve been actual; otherwise, they could not have damaged the GWOT effort.

No doubt the Democrats will respond to this amendment by giving speeches about Valerie Plame. But it will be interesting to see how they vote.

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