WASHINGTON – Concerned that leaks of classified information are damaging the ability of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) to operate globally, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper announced two immediate steps to help protect critical national security information from unauthorized disclosures.
As WTOP first reported Monday, Clapper is ordering that “a question related to unauthorized disclosure of classified information be added to the counterintelligence polygraph used by all intelligence agencies that administer the examination.”
The agencies include the CIA, DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], DOE [Department of Energy], FBI, NGA [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency], NRO [National Reconnaissance Office] and NSA [National Security Agency].
Clapper is also “requesting the Intelligence Community Inspector General (IG) lead independent investigations of selected unauthorized disclosure cases when prosecution is declined by the Department of Justice (DOJ).”
The IC IG is expected to lead a task force of IC inspectors general to conduct independent investigations in coordination with the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive.
“This will ensure that selected unauthorized disclosure cases suitable for administrative investigations are not closed prematurely,” Clapper says.
A stream of high-profile leaks to the media, dating back several years, has bedeviled the IC leadership and given rise to another possible restriction. There could also be more scrutiny of relationships between intelligence community personnel and the press.
Clapper’s office confirms he is reviewing requirements “across the IC for intelligence professionals to report non-incidental contact with members of the press.”
Shawn Turner, director of communications for National Intelligence, says “it’s not a done deal, but if he [Clapper] finds that the IC needs to do more to track who is engaging the press and when, he could issue an IC-wide directive.”
Some cases are of specific interest, Clapper says.
“The underwear bomber, revelations about cyber activities … all of those of that ilk is what I’m talking about.”
D.C. U.S. Attorney Ron Machen and Baltimore U.S. attorney Rod Rosenstein were appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to lead a DOJ inquiry into those leaks.
In addition to exposing secrets to potentially hostile adversaries, Clapper asked, rhetorically, during an interview with WTOP: “How does that impact a government’s willingness to partner with us?”
When asked if he’s seen any evidence of countries not willing to work with U.S. intelligence because of leaks, he would not talk about specifics, but said: “They all have second thoughts about that.”
CIA spokesman Preston Golson reacted to the new directive.
“Unauthorized disclosures, leaks are a threat to those who help us and their families, vital relationships with intelligence partners and ultimately the safety of Americans.”
Clapper opened the door for partner agencies, which often work with the IC to take more aggressive action as well.
“It is my sincere hope that others across the government will follow our lead. It is the right thing to do on behalf of the American people and in the interest of our national security,” Clapper says.
Golson says when sensitive operations are revealed, the public interest suffers.
“Especially in terms of momentum against adversaries who harm innocent people. When sources and methods are divulged, it takes time to recover lost capabilities, so the Agency naturally wholeheartedly supports the DNI’s efforts to protect national security information.”