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9 May, 2014 12:34

Lips sealed: US govt officials banned from talking about leaked documents

Lips sealed: US govt officials banned from talking about leaked documents

US officials will soon be banned from citing leaked data in speeches and written documents. The new policy, which is being pushed through by the head of the NSA, will crack down on “sourcing unauthorized disclosures” that harm national security.

A pre-publication review from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been released, prohibiting both current and former officials from publicly acknowledging disclosures of classified information. Even if leaks are being discussed by the media, officials must still turn a blind eye to them or face penalties.

“The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security,” the review said. The ban will not only extend to opinion articles, books and term papers, but also to unofficial written material.

Failure to adhere to the new policy “may result in the imposition of civil and administrative penalties, and may result in the loss of security clearances and accesses,” the document says.

Timothy Edgar, a visiting professor at Brown University, told the New York Times that the new policy goes too far by prohibiting former employees from citing news reports in the public domain.

“You’re basically saying people can’t talk about what everyone in the country is talking about,” he said. “I think that is awkward and overly broad in terms of restricting speech.”

This new policy comes off the back of regulations introduced by intelligence chief James Clapper back in April. The head of the US intelligence community introduced regulations that would make consulting journalists without prior permission a fireable offense for intelligence personnel.

“No substantive information should be provided to the media regarding covered matters in the case of unplanned or unintentional contacts,” said the new directive, adding that any incidents would be treated in the same way as a security violation.

The US intelligence community has sought to shore up security following the massive disclosures of classified data by Edward Snowden last year. The former CIA contractor-turned-whistleblower leaked a trove of information, revealing the National Security Agency’s global spy programs.

Following the disclosures, Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he was granted temporary political asylum. Washington condemned Snowden’s actions, with some politicians branding him a traitor. At present, the US has an extradition order out against him and has charged him under the Espionage Act.

Since the NSA scandal, Washington has reined in its intelligence practices and as of January no longer monitors the private communications of world leaders.