I’m serious about this. The state security apparatus is actually using their role in torture to call for greater legal jeopardy for reporting the misdeeds of the state security apparatus:
The C.I.A. is quietly pushing Congress to significantly expand the scope of a law that makes it a crime to disclose the identities of undercover intelligence agents, raising alarms among advocates of press freedoms.
The agency has proposed extending a 1982 law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it a crime to identify covert officers who have served abroad in the past five years. Under the C.I.A.’s plan, the law would instead apply perpetually to people whose relationships with the intelligence community are classified — even if they live and operate exclusively on domestic soil.
The C.I.A.’s proposal “seriously expands the felony criminal penalties that could be used against journalists, against whistle-blowers and against public-interest organizations,” said Emily Manna, a policy analyst for Open the Government, a group promoting accountability. “It opens the door to a ton of abuses and secrecy to a much greater extent,” she said.
The proposal would also outlaw the identification of American citizens who serve as classified agents or informants for intelligence agencies, or otherwise help them. Currently, the identities law covers only classified informants who reside and act abroad.
The push was aimed at protecting clandestine officers, said Timothy Barrett, the C.I.A. press secretary. In the past five years, he said, “hundreds of covert officers have had their identity and covert affiliation disclosed without authorization,” and under current law, the identities of officers who are based on domestic soil but travel frequently overseas are not protected.
The C.I.A. also argued that lawmakers’ original rationale for only protecting agents abroad — that they faced special physical danger — was “no longer valid” because “organizations such as WikiLeaks” are willing to go to great lengths to publish government secrets, and because of the fallout from revelations about the C.I.A.’s defunct torture program, according to a copy of the agency’s written justification for the proposal obtained by The New York Times.
Still, critics said that the agency’s proposed language is too broad, covering people who have not been in harm’s way abroad for years.
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.
Last month, when the Senate Intelligence Committee unveiled its annual intelligence bill, Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, flagged his concern that the C.I.A. provision would allow the protections for undercover identities to apply indefinitely.
“I am not yet convinced this expansion is necessary and am concerned that it will be employed to avoid accountability,” he wrote.
The C.I.A.’s push comes against the backdrop of a sharp increase in the prosecution of current and former officials accused of providing government secrets to the news media in recent years. It also comes against the unprecedented Justice Department decision in May to expand the criminal case against the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, to include Espionage Act charges for soliciting, obtaining and publishing classified information — including files that identified people in dangerous countries who had helped Americans.
Congress enacted the identities law after Richard S. Welch, the C.I.A.’s station chief in Athens, was murdered in 1975 and Philip Agee, a former C.I.A. officer who had grown to oppose American foreign policy, revealed numerous covert officers’ identities.
The identities law supplemented the Espionage Act, which more broadly makes it a crime to disclose potentially harmful defense-related information to someone not authorized to receive it. The identities act is narrower but easier to use in some respects: Prosecutors need only prove that the disclosed identity met the definition for “covert.”
Prosecutors have only rarely used the law, but they won a conviction under it in a 1985 case involving a C.I.A. clerk in Ghana and in the 2012 case of John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer who pleaded guilty to telling a reporter the name of a covert officer involved in the agency’s interrogations.
Another part of the identities law, which prosecutors have not used, might apply to journalists under some circumstances. It covers outsiders who do not have authorized access to classified information but learn about and disclose covert identities anyway, “in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents.”
In a House committee report accompanying the 1982 bill, lawmakers stressed that they intended to limit its coverage to clandestine agents abroad, or agents who may be “temporarily in the United States for rest, training, or reassignment” before returning abroad, because they face special dangers.
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.”
Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen.