How much secrecy does the CIA need, and why?
The CIA wants to expand the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it a crime to expose the identity of any covert agents who has worked abroad in the past five years. The new provision, which is included in the 2020 Intelligence Authorization Act and in the National Defense Authorization Act, would prohibit the disclosure of the identities of covert agents, even if they have never worked abroad and even if they no longer work at the CIA.
Defending Rights & Dissent joined with dozens of human rights, open government, and free press groups in raising objections to House and Senate leadership, and asking that the provision be removed.
The CIA’s proposal is dangerous because it “would permit the prosecution of reporters or any other person who discloses the identity of a current or retired operative, regardless of whether the disclosure is necessary to reveal government misconduct or threats to the intelligence agencies themselves,” according to the letter sent to members of Congress on July 8. “It would also obstruct congressional oversight of the intelligence community and hinder public access to information.”
Writing in the New York Times, Charlie Savage notes that
The proposal also comes at a time when defense lawyers at the military commissions system at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are trying to identify eyewitnesses from the C.I.A. black sites whom they could potentially call to testify about their clients’ treatment, including in the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other detainees accused of aiding the Sept. 11 attacks.
Savage also points out that when the Intelligence Identities Protection Act was originally passed in 1982, Congress quite intentionally limited it to CIA covert agents abroad, not those in the US, primarily because it is surely in the public interest to understand the role the CIA plays domestically. Savage pulls from the House committee report accompanying the 1982 bill to reveal the rationale:
The 1982 report also said that the public should be able to discuss intelligence informants living in the United States, saying they “may be employees of colleges, churches, the media, or political organizations. The degree of involvement of these groups with intelligence agencies is a legitimate subject of national debate.”
Read the full letter sent to Congress below.CIA-IAA-letter