James Clapper Bans Intelligence Community From Basically Any Interaction With Nearly Anyone With A Social Media Account

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Back in 2012, we wrote about how Senator Dianne Feinstein appeared to be a lot more focused on who leaked information about the US involvement in Stuxnet, rather than the question of whether or not the US should have been involved in Stuxnet in the first place. Soon after, Feinstein pushed for astoundingly broad “anti-leak” rules that would effectively make it illegal to blow the whistle. It automatically treated any leak as bad, even if such a leak was clearly to blow the whistle on illegal behavior. Thankfully, Senator Wyden stepped in and helped kill that effort, noting the serious consequences:

“I think Congress should be extremely skeptical of any anti-leaks bills that threaten to encroach upon the freedom of the press, or that would reduce access to information that the public has a right to know,” Wyden said in a floor statement publicly announcing his hold. “Without transparent and informed public debate on foreign policy and national security topics, American voters would be ill-equipped to elect the policymakers who make important decisions in these areas.”

This resulted in the anti-leak provision being withdrawn. However, it appears that, in late March, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, more or less put in place the same rules issuing an intelligence community directive that bars all unauthorized contact with the media, no matter what the subject or the issue. You can read the directive here. While some may argue that of course no member of the intelligence community should be able to communicate with a member of the media without authorization, they are ignoring a few key points.

First, it makes no distinction at all between classified and non-classified information. That’s a big deal. It’s reasonable (to a certain extent) to suggest that intelligence employees should not be discussing classified information with the press, but when you get into unclassified material, it gets fairly ridiculous pretty quickly. Lots of members of the intelligence community will often help reporters out, providing explanations and details on background, and that’s the sort of thing the intelligence community should support given that they frequently complain that the press gets important details wrong.

Furthermore, as Wyden himself pointed out in the debate about Feinstein’s original attempt:

I am concerned that they will lead to less-informed public debate about national security issues, and also undermine the due process rights of intelligence agency employees, without actually enhancing national security.

But, of course, it gets even worse as you dig into the details. In the directive, “media” is defined incredibly broadly:

For purpose of this Directive, media is any person, organization, or entity (other than Federal, State, local, tribal and territorial governments):

a. primarily engaged in the collection production, or dissemination to the public of information in any form, which includes print, broadcast, film and Internet; or

b. otherwise engaged in the collection, production, or dissemination to the public of information in any ofrm related to topics of national security, which includes print, broadcast, film and Internet.

Perhaps I’m misreading it, but section “b” especially would appear to suggest that if you ever use your Facebook/Twitter/etc. account to share (i.e., “disseminate”) any info concerning the “topic of national security,” you’re a part of the media. Did you share a Guardian story about Ed Snowden on Facebook? Or maybe comment about the Heartbleed bug? Congrats, you’re now considered “the media” under this directive — meaning that no one who works for the intelligence community is allowed to interact with you at all, except with authorization. For intelligence community employees, this effectively rules out their ability to do things like go to their neighbors’ barbecue this summer if that neighbor has ever shared any information concerning an issue that might be under the big umbrella of national security.

And, while it’s unlikely that the FBI is suddenly going to be tracking down a lowly NSA analyst for sharing small talk with his or her neighbor, if that same analyst is suddenly under investigation for other issues, you’d better believe that such interactions will be brought under scrutiny. We’ve seen it before. An investigation into Thomas Drake’s whistleblowing turned up nothing, so the DOJ went after him because he had a classified meeting agenda on a computer (even though it was declassified anyway soon after) and threatened him with 35 years in jail. John Kiriakou blew the whistle on CIA torture, but was eventually charged with helping a reporter speak to another former CIA agent in a manner that revealed nothing that would have an impact on national security. In other words, when the DOJ wants to bring an intelligence community employee down, they’ll find anything to do so. And this directive gives them another tool, while at the same time making sure to stifle the public discourse on what the intelligence community is doing.

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Comments on “James Clapper Bans Intelligence Community From Basically Any Interaction With Nearly Anyone With A Social Media Account”

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21 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

The World According to Clapper

This certainly looks like a definition of journalism that includes blogs, and apparently issued by an authorized government employee. Could this negate any attempt to make another?

In the world according to Clapper, everybody who is not employed by him is a journalist.

Trevor says:

Assorted Musings

1. Are there any doubts that information collected on someone that may be “legal” (read: allowed) now can be used against them later?

Say someone is under investigation for not toting the party line at the NSA. A look back at his records show he logged into facebook on his break (not against the rules). HOWEVER. The NSA employee liked a post from a guy wishing the NSA employee’s wife happy birthday. That guy posted a link last week to his facebook demanding the NSA be investigated.

Boom. He broke company policy (section B of the above-referenced directive). Pile it on.

2. Misleading title. I only have one musing. FOR NOW.

Anonymous Coward says:

So this means no more leaks by officials to make themselves look good? Har har.

Again the real issue becomes easily seen as what it is. This is an attempt to stifle any and all information flow to the public that finances these security operations. I suggest that the public takes that for what it is and pressures all politicians to remove all funding from the NSA budget. This agency is operating for supposedly the public’s good on the public’s dime. The taxpaying public has a right to know what it’s money is being spent on and how that is being done.

So far I see no effort to bring Clapper to justice for perjury. You can bet that John Q Public would not have that luxury.

zip says:

Could "loose lips" Lewinsky have made it through NSA's security clearance?

“And, while it’s unlikely that the FBI is suddenly going to be tracking down a lowly NSA analyst for sharing small talk with his or her neighbor, if that same analyst is suddenly under investigation for other issues, you’d better believe that such interactions will be brought under scrutiny.”

That reminds me of someone I knew in college who got a job at the NSA. I was surprised at the depth of investigation and ‘under-lie-detector’ questioning he described that they put him though. (They even hunted down and questioned his kindergarten teacher, though interestingly, none of his friends or peers [Eddie Haskell types would have easily breezed through IMHO]) I never knew until then that the US tapped all long-distance telephone calls, as he described what he did at the agency (though I was well aware that letters to and from “hot spots” like Northern Ireland typically arrived *crudely* opened and taped shut, so I wasn’t completely surprised at the NSA’s wholesale phone tapping)

But this was before the Internet and Google, when we were all a lot more na?ve about what really went on in the world.

But I just wanted to make the point (from what I personally learned) that the NSA, at least back then, completely ignored the very people who would probably know best whether an agent (or prospective agent) was loyal to authority and could keep secrets from close friends.

Maybe they do things differently now, but it was kind of interesting that the sort of people who tell their friends everything were not being weeded out at the lower-levels of security clearance at the NSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually that is a correct definition of "media"

As far as first amendment rights go, that is the correct definition of the media. Freedom of the press is right that ALL individuals have to disseminate information to the public for the benefit of the public. Clapper’s directive is in direct violation of that right. The definition of media isn’t what is scary here but the entire order itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

James Clapper he has been busy, between trying to paint Edward Snowden as a traitor for exposing the crimes that he, and Alexander have committed, to college students, and now doing his best to make sure that no one else working in those agencies would ever have the audacity to step forward to report their unamerican activities, I have to wonder exactly when he will find the time to finish cleaning his shitty ass with what’s left of our constitution.

Benedict Arnold tried to sell West Point to the British. James Clapper successfully sold our 4th amendment constitutional rights to any country willing to share what they found out.

Edward Snowden – Big Damn Hero, he sacraficed his own rights, in order to expose the crimes of those that were taking them away.

James Clapper / Keith Alexander – Cowardly Traitorous Bastards. Lying and breaking every oath they swore, in order to save their own skins, and pensions.

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