New steps to combat leaks on the way


As the fallout over recent leaks of classified information continues to swirl, one consequence will be closer scrutiny of contacts between intelligence community employees and news outlets under two measures announced this week by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The first involves the counter-intelligence polygraph exam that seven intelligence agencies, (CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, Energy Department, FBI, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and National Security Agency)  give employees when they’re first hired and typically every seven years thereafter when their security clearances come up for renewal.  Hitherto, only the CIA has asked about unauthorized disclosures of classified information and its question does not specifically mention the news media, said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Clapper’s office.  All seven agencies will now have to add a direct query about disclosures to the media.

The second step aims to beef up the intelligence community’s ability to pursue administrative investigations against employees suspected of making unauthorized disclosures, but who are not charged criminally. At Clapper’s request, the inspector general for the intelligence community will form a standing task force of IGs from individual intelligence agencies that can cross bureaucratic boundaries in conducting independent inquiries. Together, the new measures will send “a strong message” that members of the intelligence community hold themselves “to the highest standard of professionalism,” Clapper said in a news release.

But some worry that the latest war on leaks will result in collateral damage.

Back in 2001, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft estimated that polygraphs had a false positive rate about 15 percent. Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security law, doubts that figure has changed much since then. In the uproar following the Aldrich Ames debacle of the 1990s, several hundred CIA employees ran into polygraph problems, Zaid said today in an email, adding that no one was allowed on an overseas tour  if they had unresolved issues on that score. As a result, Zaid said, many careers in what is now the CIA’s National Clandestine Service were “stalled or derailed.”

Turner declined comment on that point.


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