Mar 5, 2006

White House Cracks Down on Media Leaks

In a development which readers of this well-connected blog network have previously been made aware of (see last week's Is There More Here?), the White House has ordered surveillance of government employees with certain security clearances and the journalists that they are in contact with.

Today's Washington Post has an article about this that omits the really sensitive part of the story, that there apparently exists a classified USSID (United States Signals Intelligence Directive) permitting the NSA to eavesdrop upon a large number of people who are in a position to leak or receive classified information that is embarrassing to the administration.

This is the program that AG Alberto Gonzales was dancing around to avoid acknowledging in his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony of Feb. 6.

From today's Post article:

The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources. The efforts include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.

In recent weeks, dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI's Washington field office, who are investigating possible leaks that led to reports about secret CIA prisons and the NSA's warrantless domestic surveillance program, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the two cases.

Numerous employees at the CIA, FBI, Justice Department and other agencies also have received letters from Justice prohibiting them from discussing even unclassified issues related to the NSA program, according to sources familiar with the notices. Some GOP lawmakers are also considering whether to approve tougher penalties for leaking...

Some media watchers, lawyers and editors say that, taken together, the incidents represent perhaps the most extensive and overt campaign against leaks in a generation, and that they have worsened the already-tense relationship between mainstream news organizations and the White House...

Disclosing classified information without authorization has long been against the law, yet such leaks are one of the realities of life in Washington -- accounting for much of the back-channel conversation that goes on daily among journalists, policy intellectuals, and current and former government officials.

You heard it here first, folks.

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