By Jay Syrmopoulos, The Free Thought Project:
A declassified CIA report called for legislation that would allow for the prosecution of anyone in possession of classified information—including journalists
Washington, DC – A SECRET declassified report by then-CIA Director William Casey, titled, Unauthorized Disclosures to the Media proposed creating legislation that would make possession of classified information a criminal offense.
At the time that would make anyone reading a New York Times article with classified information, or WikiLeaks in the modern-era, criminally liable and able to be prosecuted by the state.
Although Casey was in favor of creating new legislation to specifically target media leaks, as well as those who come to possess those leaks (journalists or readers), he argued against utilization of the Espionage Act to prosecute leakers.
The former CIA Director reasoned that using the Espionage Act to target leakers was extreme, excessive and was akin to “driving tacks with a sledgehammer.”
While Casey acknowledged that the media was conflicted in their obligations, he conceded that it’s the job of the media to inform the public.
Ironically, despite his admission that the job of a journalist is to inform the public, he goes on to espouse a desire to see the media prosecuted for their role in publishing leaks and held in contempt if they failed to name their sources.
Ironically, as Muckrock points out, far from minimizing the potential harm of national security leaks, Casey emphasized the damage that they could do. However, none of the five examples provided by Casey in his report resulted in any actual harm. Two examples “could have” resulted in adversary adjusting their techniques, though the language implies that hadn’t happened.
A third and fourth example resulted in potential damage which forced the Agency to cut off contact with a human source lest that danger be amplified. While endangering human sources is never a good thing and disrupting HUMINT operations was unlikely to have been the intention, the report again indicates that no actual harm came to anyone. A fifth example placed someone in danger of being discovered, again a possibility which hadn’t come to pass, though it “could possibly have an adverse effect on U.S. relations” with an unknown group.
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