Alexandria, VA -- Senators Rick Santorum, R-PA, and Conrad Burns, R-MT,
support implementation of Official Secret�s Act, S.3774,
introduced last Wednesday by Senator Christopher Bond, R-MO, to criminalize the
unauthorized disclosure of classified information.
Bond's bill seeks to enable the Executive Branch in prosecuting
individuals engaged in disclosure of government secrets. According to the
release issued by Senator Bond�s office, the legislation seeks to unify current
law and ease the government's burden in prosecuting and punishing
leakers by eliminating the need to prove that damage to the national security
has or will result from a disclosure. According to Secrecy
News reports, the new Bond bill is identical to the controversial anti-leak
legislation sponsored by Senator Richard Shelby in the FY 2001 Intelligence
Authorization Act that was vetoed by
President Clinton in November 2000. The bill was called the �Official Secrets
Act,� after the U.K.�s repressive criminal secrecy statutes.
The United States has never had a statute generally criminalizing leaks
or the publication of sensitive information. Despite consideration at a number
of moments in our history, concern for the First Amendment and the principle
that the press acts as an important check on government abuse has thwarted all
previous efforts to pass such legislation.
According to Professor
William Weaver, NSWBC Senior Advisor, �Such legislation is subject to a
double standard in its application. For example, much information is leaked
to the press with the approval of administrators. These sorts of leaks
are an unofficial channel for shoring up administration positions and to
influence public opinion. On the other hand, unauthorized leaks would be
prosecuted when they undermine administration positions or embarrass the
executive branch or reveal illegal agency activity. So whether or not a person
is prosecuted depends on whether or not the leak is popular or unpopular
with the administration in power at the time of the leak. If the statute
were to be applied evenhandedly, the jails would be full of administrators and
Rather than a genuine effort to enhance national security, this
legislation is designed to deter legitimate whistleblowing. The result is that
the statute would create an "Official Secrets Act" similar to that
found in Great Britain. But, obviously, Great Britain does not have a First
Amendment and we do.
The government has consistently failed in its burden to prove that
recent leaks of national security information somehow harmed the United States.
Rather, these disclosures have encouraged public discussion on issues of
executive abuses that this administration has tried very hard to cover up.
Justice Brandeis wrote: "those who won our independence believed . . . that
public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental
principle of the American government."
Current law already protects against disclosure of specific types of
sensitive information, like the design of a nuclear warhead or a covert agent�s
identity. Legislation that places the First Amendment entirely in the hands of
the Executive Branch, such as Bond�s bill, is unconstitutional on its face. The
nation�s founders chose not to implement an Official Secret�s Act on our public
servants and there is no need for such a law now.
GAP Legal Director, Tom Devine, stated: �This is a bill to protect the
bureaucracy, not America's security. It is about covering up government abuses
of power that only can be sustained through secrecy. It is about canceling
freedom of speech when it counts, by criminalizing whistleblowers who make
unclassified disclosures. Most whistleblowers who would be targeted are those
exposing cover-ups of the government's own security breaches.�
On June 29, 2006, The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), issued its
list of Twelve Senators and Representatives, its Whistleblowers� Dirty Dozen,
who by their action or inaction, have stood against real investigations,
hearings, and legislation dealing with government whistleblowers who have
exposed waste, fraud, abuse, and or criminal activities within government
agencies. Senator Rick Santorum, R-PA, made the list.
�Senator Santorum is on our list due to being very consistent in his
stand against whistleblowers� protection and his strong support for unchecked
and excessive government secrecy. His strong support of this new repressive
bill, which takes away Congress� right to know in order to exercise its
oversight authority, goes a long way to demonstrate why he is an incumbent
candidate unfit to represent our people and their interest and rights
guaranteed under the constitution. Mr. Santorum acts as an extension of the
executive branch that seeks to override the separation of powers and expand its
power; not as an elected senator who has been vested with authority and a
position to serve his constituents,� stated Sibel Edmonds, NSWBC
Founder and Director.
� Copyright 2006 National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Information
in this release may be freely distributed and published provided that all
such distributions make appropriate attribution to the National Security
National Security Whistleblowers Coalition,
founded in August 2004, is an independent and nonpartisan alliance of
whistleblowers who have come forward to address our nation�s security
weaknesses; to inform authorities of security vulnerabilities in our intelligence
agencies, at nuclear power plants and weapon facilities, in airports, and at
our nation�s borders and ports; to uncover government waste, fraud, abuse, and
in some cases criminal conduct. The NSWBC is dedicated to aiding national
security whistleblowers through a variety of methods, including advocacy of
governmental and legal reform, educating the public concerning whistleblowing
activity, provision of comfort and fellowship to national security
whistleblowers suffering retaliation and other harms, and working with other
public interest organizations to affect goals defined in the NSWBC mission
statement. For more on NSWBC visit www.nswbc.org.