The CIA Wants To Make It Easier To Jail Journalists And No One In Congress Is Stopping It From Happening

from the CIA-wondering-why-we-just-can't-go-back-to-zero-accountability dept

The CIA is pushing for an expansion of a 37-year-old law that would deter journalists from covering national security issues or reporting on leaked documents. Thanks to a disillusioned CIA case officer's actions in 1975, there are currently a few limits to what can or can't be reported about covert operatives working overseas.

In 1975, Philip Agee published a memoir about his years with the CIA. Attached to his memoir -- which detailed his growing discontentment with the CIA's clandestine support of overseas dictators -- was a list of 250 CIA agents or informants. In response to this disclosure, Congress passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), which criminalized disclosing the identity of covert intelligence agents.

The IIPA did what it could to protect journalists by limiting the definition of "covert agent" to agents serving overseas and then only those who were currently working overseas when the disclosure occurred. It also required the government to show proof the person making the disclosure was "engaged in a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose" covert agents. The law was amended in 1999 to expand the coverage to include covert agents working overseas within five years of the disclosure.

Now, the CIA is seeking to strip these protections from the IIPA. The agency wants the "overseas" requirement removed, allowing it (and other intelligence agencies) to designate whoever they want as "protected" by the IIPA in perpetuity. The removal of the overseas requirement eliminates the five-year period. Disclosing identities years after the fact will now be a criminal act.

The CIA has its reasons, as Trevor Timm reports. But they're the worst reasons.

Under the proposed law, any journalist who, say, revealed the names of “covert” CIA officers that had engaged in torture or ordered drone strikes on civilians would now be subject to prosecution — even if the newsworthy actions occurred years or decades prior or the officer in question has always been located in the United States.

In fact, the CIA explicitly referenced the revelations of the agency’s Bush-era torture program in its argument to Congress for IIPA expansion. The New York Times’s Charlie Savage obtained the CIA’s private memo in which it lobbied members of Congress. Under the memo’s “justification” section, the CIA wrote:

"Particularly with the lengths organizations such as WikiLeaks are willing to go to obtain and release sensitive national security information, as well as incidents related to past Agency programs, such as the RDI investigation, the original congressional reasoning mentioned above for a narrow definition of ‘covert agent’ no longer remains valid."

RDI is the CIA's preferred term for its torture program. It stands for "Rendition, Detention and Interrogation." If the law is amended, the scope of its coverage expands, and the public gains nothing from it. Issues like drone strikes and torture programs need all the sunlight they can get. The CIA -- and other intelligence agencies -- would prefer the general public not know what's being done in their name with their tax dollars.

Unfortunately, someone who has stood up for the press for years is allowing this amendment -- attached to the 2020 budget bill -- to move forward. Rep. Adam Schiff -- the co-founder of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press -- has done nothing to push back against this expansion of the IIPA.

Here, Schiff has a direct means to protect journalists from what’s sure to be a clear and present danger: He could refuse to insert the provision the CIA has requested into the intelligence bill. Instead, at least so far, he’s done the complete opposite.

As Timm points out, Schiff may be big on press freedom, but he's even bigger on surveillance state boosterism.

Sadly, when you take a good look at his record, Schiff has always favored the secrecy of intelligence agencies over journalists’ rights. Just a few weeks ago, he pushed Democrats to vote down a bill that would cut funding for one of the NSA’s controversial surveillance programs that collect Americans’ data without warrants.

If this amendment becomes law, reporting on covert activities will be something only criminals do. It will make it that much easier to punish journalists for printing facts. This comes at a time when the presidential administration has expressed open hostility towards journalists and the act of journalism and the Commander-in-Chief has called for the return of torture programs. Schiff -- like all of our representatives -- has a duty to protect the public from self-serving laws that encourage government misbehavior. Like far too many others, he's apparently convinced the security of the nation is more important than the people residing in it.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, adam schiff, cia, covert agents, free speech, iipa, journalism


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    norahc, 17 Jul 2019 @ 12:41pm

    Congress shall make no law...abridging...the freedom of the press

    Unless it is necessary to prevent fake news, threatening national security interests, or they really really want to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 17 Jul 2019 @ 12:50pm

    Toss them

    i seem to remember the current president explaining to the russians that he's love to toss them in jail and presumably have them executed like Putin does.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jul 2019 @ 12:54pm

    Does this mean that they will now go after Richard Armitage and Lewis "Scooter" Libby for the outing of Valerie Plame?

    Yeah, I didn't think so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Sharur, 17 Jul 2019 @ 5:48pm

      Re:

      I sincerely hope not. The response to violating the Constitution should never be MORE violations of the Constitution and its protections, in this case the prohibition of Ex Post Facto laws, which your proposed actions would constitute. (Strictly speaking the law itself would not be ex post facto since as proposed it would only affect future actions, but retroactively applying it to prior actions would be).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2019 @ 6:30am

        Re: Re:

        I was pointing out their hypocrisy, not what should have been done nor how to correct their interference with proper law enforcement.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jul 2019 @ 1:02pm

    Schiff is too busy grandstanding to protect the rights of the people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 17 Jul 2019 @ 1:04pm

    [Schiff]'s apparently convinced the alleged security of the nation is more important than the people residing in it.

    T,FTFY

    As with all things governent, the definition of security is a moving target.

    In cases like this, it's always best to closely examine a speaker's personal agenda. Here we see a CongressCritter assuming that his personal idea of security applies to all Americans. Left unspoken, but highly implied, is the last phrase of that sentence: "...whether they like it or not".

    sumgai

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonyOps, 17 Jul 2019 @ 1:30pm

    "CIA Bill to Make Disclosure of CIA Crimes Illegal," FIFY

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jul 2019 @ 4:33pm

    Ah, come on! More freedom of speech being removed simply to cover up the bad things security services are doing! Remember, they're supposed to be in the business of taking care nothing happens to us, not covering their asses because they're up to ni good!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jul 2019 @ 8:17pm

      Re:

      Where in the fuck did you hear or read that? They're supposed to be in the business of taking care of us?? Did you get that from college or high school?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Zof (profile), 17 Jul 2019 @ 6:15pm

    Hahahhaah

    They thought Adam Schiff was a good guy looking out for them. Hahahahahaha.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 18 Jul 2019 @ 2:05pm

    Ways Around It

    Under the proposed law, any journalist who, say, revealed the names of “covert” CIA officers that had engaged in torture or ordered drone strikes on civilians would now be subject to prosecution

    So slip the info to a journalist overseas, who is not subject to U.S. law or subpoena.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 19 Jul 2019 @ 5:17am

      Re: Ways Around It

      Okay, but this could only be reported by overseas media outlets, not in US ones. So, unless the US population was into reading overseas-based media, few Americans would know what the CIA was up to.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        btr1701 (profile), 19 Jul 2019 @ 11:04am

        Re: Re: Ways Around It

        Okay, but this could only be reported by overseas media outlets, not in US ones.

        With the internet, I read news from Australia, Britain, Germany, etc. just as much as I read domestic sources. If the story was reported on the BBC or Sky or whatever, it'd hit the U.S., too. And then U.S. news orgs could report on their reporting. Something like, "A bombshell story from the BBC today detailed CIA abuses overseas. Here's the link to the BBC story if you want to know more."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      R,ogs/, 19 Jul 2019 @ 10:10am

      Re: Ways Around It

      you can find my non -anonymous, FBI /CIA /ADL/ monitored public email at:

      ciscorouter(dot )12(at )mail (dot )com

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 18 Jul 2019 @ 2:07pm

    If this amendment becomes law, reporting on covert activities will be something only criminals do.

    Well, at least until it's challenged and overturned by SCOTUS. Never a sure thing, but likely based on current 1st Amendment trends.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    R,ogs/, 19 Jul 2019 @ 9:40am

    blast from the past

    From the (now ) piss yellow Slate.com, before it was taken over completely by pimply faced gay mafia accolytes :

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2002/10/why-the-fbi-and-cia-don-t-cooperate-and-why-they-shoul dn-t.html

    Newsweeks Robert Parry gave a talk to F.A.I.R. in Santa Monica in 1993, warning us that the CIA had brought “chaos ” and counter -intelligence stalking to the domestic sphere, including the targeting of journalists.

    That was ALSO the year that the racist /Israelified/anti -democracy Anti Defamation League was caught spying on American dissidents, activists, and their media organs.

    Fast forward to now, and Techdirt covers how the CIA is targeting journalists.

    Total facepalm 🤑

    Ooops. Thats not a facepalm.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    R,ogs/, 19 Jul 2019 @ 9:53am

    oh, one other thing....

    ...one cannot miss that Schiff is part of the Israelification of American politics.

    Pelosi, Schumer, and esoecially that foul cunt on the intelligence committee, aka “Israel /Mossad in America ”, Dianne Feinstein and her mystery money connections, and her husbands weaponized USPS (Google USPS and workplace harrassment /stalking /mass shooting for a real eye opener ) have Israelified, ADLified /Hillel 'd American discourse so deeply, that. even liberals consider supporting he rise of the KKK (to compete with the ADLified Multi Kultural Klans and Kovens, K 4)

    Yeah, Lil Loopy Adam dropped out of holes like that, straight into a barnyard full of foxes, eating shit and hen feathers underneath a huge pig trough, with its bottom chewed through.

    Guess whose next for the foxes?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 25 Jul 2019 @ 7:51am

      Re: oh, one other thing....

      Fuck off, antisemitic pathological liar.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        R,ogs/, 1 Aug 2019 @ 11:51am

        Re: Re: oh, one other thing....

        I will happily fuck off in your mothers ass, you basement dwelling, ADL sociopath protecting “anttti-semitic conspuracy theorist.”

        But only after you get done. I dint want to otherwise rock you me-first narrative.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.