A New Turn in the War on Whistleblowers & Journalism?


Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

If Director of National Intelligence James Clapper thinks you need to know about US intelligence, he’ll tell you.

A remarkable bit of news was made this week by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists (Secrecy News4/21/14). And it sends an ominous message about how can journalism is practiced.

Aftergood writes:

The Director of National Intelligence has forbidden most intelligence community employees from discussing “intelligence-related information” with a reporter unless they have specific authorization to do so, according to an Intelligence Community Directive that was issued last month.

One might think–or want to think–that the new rules are intended to stem the flow of classified information. But, as Aftergood points out:

The new prohibition does not distinguish between classified and unclassified intelligence information. The “covered matters” that require prior authorization before an employee may discuss them with a reporter extend to any topic that is “related” to intelligence, irrespective of its classification status.

He adds:

Essentially, the Directive seeks to ensure that the only contacts that occur between intelligence community employees and the press are those that have been approved in advance. Henceforward, the only news about intelligence is to be authorized news.

It’s hard to see how a move to criminalize routine discussions between government officials and members of the press is anything but an attempt to shut down such conversations. The story was since picked up by reporters like McClatchy‘s Jonathan Landay (4/21/14), who pointed out that the directive

includes a sweeping definition of who’s a journalist, which it asserts is “any person… engaged in the collection, production or dissemination to the public of information in any form related to topics of national security.”

That would apply to a whole lot of people, every one of whom should be alarmed and outraged by this policy.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.