Clinton vetoes leaks bill

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — President Clinton on Saturday vetoed a bill that would have sharply expanded the government’s power to prosecute anyone who revealed official secrets, including whistle-blowers or even ambassadors who briefed news reporters.

"Although well intentioned, (the bill) is overbroad and may unnecessarily chill legitimate activities that are at the heart of a democracy," the president said.

Currently, the government can prosecute persons who disclose especially sensitive information, such as the names of intelligence agents or the plans for nuclear weapons. Usually, however, prosecutors must show the disclosure of classified information damaged the nation’s security.

The new provision, which was discussed behind closed doors on Capitol Hill and passed on voice vote, would have made it a crime to disclose "any classified information," regardless of its impact or the reason for the disclosure.

Proponents said the new enforcement power would stem the flow of leaks from inside the government. George Tenet, the director the CIA, had complained to congressional leaders that the government "leaks like a sieve."

But critics, including leading news organizations, said the bill went too far and would stifle public debate about national security or permit officials to cover up mistakes. They noted that a vast amount of information is deemed classified.

Both conservatives and liberals condemned the bill.

Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., said the provision amounted to an "official secrets act" that would "silence whistle-blowers." Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress was "foolish to give a blank check to the executive branch" that would allow it to punish its internal critics.

Clinton’s veto "comes as a great relief," said Steven Aftergood, a security specialist at the Federation of American Scientists. "This would have given the executive branch extraordinary power to control disclosures about national security matters," he said.

But the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee faulted the president’s action. "To veto this critical piece of legislation now is disruptive and may send a dangerous message to those who would harm U.S. interests," Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., said.

No public hearings were held on the new anti-leak bill, which was discussed by the House and Senate intelligence committees. The provision to broaden the prosecution power was added to the Intelligence Authorization Act, which was passed on voice votes in the Senate and House in mid-October.

The new provision would have it a felony for anyone to "knowingly and willfully disclose … any classified information."

Talk to us

More in Local News

FILE - A sign hangs at a Taco Bell on May 23, 2014, in Mount Lebanon, Pa. Declaring a mission to liberate "Taco Tuesday" for all, Taco Bell asked U.S. regulators Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to force Wyoming-based Taco John's to abandon its longstanding claim to the trademark. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Hepatitis A confirmed in Taco Bell worker in Everett, Lake Stevens

The health department sent out a public alert for diners at two Taco Bells on May 22 or 23.

VOLLI’s Director of Food & Beverage Kevin Aiello outside of the business on Friday, May 19, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Coming soon to Marysville: indoor pickleball, games, drinks

“We’re very confident this will be not just a hit, but a smash hit,” says co-owner Allan Jones, who is in the fun industry.

Detectives: Unresponsive baby was exposed to fentanyl at Everett hotel

An 11-month-old boy lost consciousness Tuesday afternoon. Later, the infant and a twin sibling both tested positive for fentanyl.

Cassie Franklin (left) and Nick Harper (right)
Report: No wrongdoing in Everett mayor’s romance with deputy mayor

An attorney hired by the city found no misuse of public funds. Texts between the two last year, however, were not saved on their personal phones.

Firearm discovered by TSA officers at Paine Field Thursday morning, May 11, 2023, during routine X-ray screening at the security checkpoint. (Transportation Security Administration)
3 guns caught by TSA at Paine Field this month — all loaded

Simple travel advice: Unpack before you pack to make sure there’s not a gun in your carry-on.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
To beat the rush this Memorial Day weekend, go early or late

AAA projects busy airports, ferries and roads over the holiday weekend this year, though still below pre-pandemic counts.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Troopers: DUI crash leaves 1 in critical condition in Maltby

A drunken driver, 34, was arrested after her pickup rear-ended another truck late Tuesday, injuring a Snohomish man, 28.

Housing Hope CEO Donna Moulton raises her hand in celebration of the groundbreaking of the Housing Hope Madrona Highlands on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$30M affordable housing project to start construction soon in Edmonds

Once built, dozens of families who are either homeless or in poverty will move in and receive social and work services.

A south-facing view of the proposed site for a new mental health facility on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, near 300th Street NW and 80th Avenue NW north of Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
County Council OK’s Stanwood behavioral health center

After an unsuccessful appeal to block it, the Tulalip Tribes are now on the cusp of building the 32-bed center in farmland.

Most Read