Clapper signs strict new media directive

A new directive issued by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper prohibits employees of certain government agencies from discussing any intelligence-related matter with the media, classified or not.

The directive was signed on March 20 but didn't receive much attention until it was highlighted on Monday by the Federation of American Scientists and the Project on Government Secrecy.

“[Intelligence Community] employees … must obtain authorization for contacts with the media” on intelligence-related matters, and “must also report… unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters,” the directive says.

The Federation of American Scientists's Steven Aftergood notes that the directive does not distinguish between classified and unclassified intelligence information and the “covered matters” that require prior authorization extend to any topic that is “related” to intelligence.

"So under most circumstances, an intelligence community employee is at liberty to discuss unclassified 'intelligence-related information' with his or her next-door neighbor," Aftergood writes. "But if the neighbor happened to be a member of the media, then the contact would be prohibited altogether without prior authorization."

Meanwhile, the "media" are defined broadly as "any person or entity" who is "primarily engaged in the collection, production, or dissemination to the public of information in any form."

Employees who are found to be in violation of this policy "may be subject to administrative actions that may include revocation of security clearance or termination of employment" and possible action by the Department of Justice if it results in "unauthorized disclosure of classified information," the directive states.

The directive is seen as a part of a broader move by the government to clamp down on internal leaks by the leaks of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden.

UPDATE (2:40 p.m.):

In a statement, DNI spokesperson Shawn Turner said that after the "damaging leaks in 2012," Clapper ordered a review to determine if there were a "consistent baseline requirement" for the intelligence community for engaging the media.

"The review demonstrated that baseline requirements were not consistent across the IC, but that there were best practices within the Community that could inform a consistent approach. That approach took shape as IC Directive 119," Turner wrote in an email. "This policy is being issued together with IC Directive 120 to ensure that members of the Intelligence Community are made aware of the protections provided them as whistleblowers who make protected disclosures. As with ICD 119, ICD 120 was initiated before Edward Snowden stole NSA property and leaked it to the media.”

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