Steven Aftergood of Federation of American Scientists has a must-read analysis of the Senate Intelligence Committee's anti-leak proposals in the 2013 intelligence authorization bill.
Aftergood articulates beautifully the misdirection of Congress' approach to leaks, which attacks the messenger instead of listening to the message:
And yet there is something incongruous, if not outrageous, about the whole effort by Congress to induce stricter secrecy in the executive branch, which already has every institutional incentive to restrict public disclosure of intelligence information.
In an earlier generation of intelligence oversight, leaks led to leak investigations in executive agencies, but they also prompted substantive oversight in Congress. When Seymour Hersh and the New York Times famously reported on unlawful domestic surveillance in December 1974, the urgent question in Congress was not how did Hersh find out, or how similar disclosures could be prevented, but what to do about the alarming facts that had been disclosed.
Even more hypocritical, the Senate Intelligence Committee, headed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
, a staunch supporter of the intelligence community her committee is tasked with overseeing and herself a notorious "leaker," operates almost entirely in secret. Aftergood points to specifics:
In contrast, while pursuing leaks and leakers, today’s Senate Intelligence Committee has not held an open public hearing for six months. The Committee’s investigative report concerning CIA interrogation practices from ten years (and two presidential terms) ago has still not been issued. Upon publication — perhaps this fall — it will essentially be a historical document.
The Senate Intelligence Committee was created to oversee the intelligence community, not to assist the intelligence community in maintaining excessive secrecy.
How most of the Senate Intelligence Committee's anti-leak provisions are complete bull after the jump.
Aftergood summarizes selected anti-leak measures, which include:
 a requirement to notify Congress when intelligence information is disclosed to the public (outside of the FOIA or the regular declassification review process) and to maintain a record of all authorized disclosures of classified information
As I wrote yesterday
, this provision reflects that Congress is less concerned about disclosures of classified information and the public interest than it is concerned about the fact that Congress does not get the "leaks" first.
 a requirement to establish formal procedures for leak investigations
This might be a good proposal considering the current, unpredictable, freelance approach to "leak investigations" usually ends with criminal investigations of whistleblowers (such as National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblowers Thomas Drake
, Edward Loomis, J. Kirk Wiebe, William Binney,
congressional staffer Diane Roark, and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower John Kiriakou
) or with chilling monitoring of whistleblowers, reporters, and congressional staffers as with the recent Food and Drug Administration scandal
. However, forgive my skepticism that the Senate Intelligence Committee will create whistleblower-friendly standards, especially considering that the fact that Drake brought his concerns to the congressional intelligence committees didn't save him from being prosecuted under the Espionage Act.
 a requirement to assess procedures for detecting leaks, including expanded use of polygraph testing in other parts of the executive branch
I've already written on Kos
about why using polygraphs as the new anti-leak tool is ill-advised.
 a prohibition on cleared personnel (or formerly cleared personnel for up to a year after employment) serving as paid consultants or commentators to a media organization regarding intelligence matters
This is a cosmetic fix at best. A year is a pittance in the life of an intelligence professional looking to make a buck giving commentary.
 a requirement that only certain designated intelligence community officials may communicate with the media
All intelligence agencies already have such a designation - it's called a PR office. They also have regulations about contact with the media.
 a requirement for all intelligence community employees to report any contacts with the media
The Senate Intelligence Committee needs reminding that the First Amendment protects the freedom of the press, and that even intelligence employees have a First Amendment right to talk to the press about unclassified information.
 a requirement for the Attorney General and the DNI to submit a report to Congress on possible improvements to current procedures governing leak investigations
This seems a decent proposal, but if the reporting is to the Senate Intelligence Committee, chances are it will be secret, so the public will have no way of knowing if so-called "leak investigations" are being targeted against whistleblowers.
 establishment of provisions to require surrender of federal pension benefits as a penalty for unauthorized disclosures
The Senate Intelligence Committee tried this last year, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) commendably succeeded
in stopping the measure. If not aimed at silencing retired NSA whistleblowers like Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe
, Edward Loomis, and Thomas Drake
, then this provision will certainly have a chilling effect on the next retired Intelligence Community employee brave enough to speak about about waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality she witnessed while in government. Considering the explosive disclosures
Binney, Drake, and Wiebe have made since leaving the NSA, it is not in the public interest to silence them or other retirees who want to blow the whistle on government wrongdoing.
 a provision to prohibit security clearances for individuals who make unauthorized disclosures of covert action information
It is hard to believe such a provision is really necessary. Considering that the intelligence community yanks security clearances from whistleblowers for minor (and sometimes fabricated) infractions and then fights any measure of court oversight over security clearance decisions, it shouldn't be too hard to remove the clearances of officials who actually reveal covert actions.
The Senate Intelligence Committee's response to the "leak hysteria" in Washington is completely misguided. Instead of focusing on investigating things like whether the President should be permitted to maintain "kill lists" of people -- including Americans -- to assassinate without charge or trial, the committee is focusing on how the public found out about that information.