You have the right to remain in the dark; Congress acts to silence whistleblowers

As July drew to a close, the Senate Intelligence Committee produced the latest instillation in the war on whistle-blowers. Acting to further deter members of the intelligence community from sharing information with the media, the SIC amended the 2012 intelligence authorization bill to include 12 provisions penalizing the disclosure of classified information.

If passed, the amendment would reduce to a handful the number of people at each agency permitted to speak to reporters on "background,” or condition of anonymity; require notice to the Senate and House intelligence committees of authorized disclosures of intelligence information; and permit the government to strip the pension of an intelligence officer who illegally discloses classified information.

Nor is this is the first action of its kind.

Coupled with the Obama administration's record-breaking prosecution of whistle-blowers and the advent of the nation's largest investigation into intelligence disclosure in years, this new legislation perpetuates the practice of insulating government secrets, fraud, waste and abuse from the light of day.

Moreover, the Whistleblower Protection Act, which governs the private sector and much of the government, explicitly denies protection to members of the intelligence community. As a result, even when intelligence officials do come forward in the public interest to disclose evidence of illegal activities, as in the case of John Kiriakou or Diane Roark, the federal government retains the power to prosecute them for it.

With an unwieldly estimated 4.8 million Americans holding access to classified materials, it is unlikely any amendment could completely prevent secrets from surfacing. But as long as legislators continue to contrive tools to enable the executive branch to hide facts from the press and public, the potential for further abuse will remain dangerously high.

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