The engine room for our ship of state is Washington. Washington leaks, badly. Everyone in the city, from the lowliest janitor to the President has some bit of news that the media wants to hear about. Some of it is true. Some is out of context. And some is just plain false.
A myriad of laws, directives, processes and procedures exist to prevent the release of unauthorized information to the press and the public. But the leaking continues. The latest attempt to fix the problem is a memo titled ODNI PRE-PUBLICATION REVIEW OF INFORMATION TO BE PUBLICLY RELEASED, which was issued on April 8, and is available in pdf form through the Federation of American Scientists.
The memo directs personnel who fall under Director of National Intelligence purview to submit all “official and non-official information intended for public release” for review prior to release. Don’t worry, though. The review process will only take 15 to 30 days. Information from known leaks or sensitive material may not be disclosed. ODNI personnel are not authorized to use anonymous sourcing.
Shortly after the issuance of this memo, the PAO provided added justification through another memo also available online.
ODNI employees, current and former, may not rely upon unauthorized disclosures as a source for factual statements or as proof that the information is no longer classified. Nor may they cite “anonymous sources” from media reporting if the citation, combined with their perceived inside knowledge, would tend to confirm classified information.
Former employees may engage with the media, but must provide talking points or high level outlines for review to the extent possible.
Media outlets such as Fox News and CNN should pay special attention to these clauses. Many of the subject matter experts, “analysts” and “contributors” that they rely upon for commentary fall under these restrictions. Indeed, many of our readers may violate their non-disclosure agreements or fall under these restrictions just by leaving an on-line comment on a blog or news item.
Leaking is an integral part of the relationship between the media and the elected, appointed and civil service employees of the government. Will these new efforts result in fewer leaks? Probably not. They will provide an additional means to prosecute whistle blowers and stifle public speech on topics that the administration would like to bury. At least, that is what I hear “anonymous sources” are reporting.