Washington, DC – Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has issued a directive barring intelligence community (IC) employees from speaking to the media about intelligence-related matters, including unclassified matters, without authorization. The directive, issued in March, was first posted yesterday by the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.
The directive threatens IC employees making unauthorized contacts with the media with security clearance revocation or termination. The overbroad and vague directive loosely defines the media to include those “engaged in the collection, production or dissemination to the public of information in any form related to topics of national security.” That definition could not only include reporters for traditional outlets, but bloggers and activists who write about the intelligence community. The directive requires IC employees to report any inadvertent contact with the broadly defined “media” to superiors.
GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, herself a notable whistleblower rights advocate and popular blogger who regularly converses with IC whistleblowers, decried the directive:
This latest action is a clear extension of the executive branch’s war on national security whistleblowers. It is a grotesque twist for James Clapper to limit public knowledge about government activity when he himself has been responsible for lying to Congress and misleading the public about the government’s overreaching mass surveillance programs.
If the directive succeeds in chilling employees’ speech, the public will have to settle for executive branch talking points, which have been repeatedly revealed as drastically misleading if not outright falsehoods. The directive’s thinly-veiled true intent is to silence employees, especially whistleblowers, and give the government absolute control over all public messaging related to the powerful, virtually unchecked, and far too secret national security apparatus.
If Clapper is interested in stopping employees from exposing blatant wrongdoing, then he would prioritize creating safe and effective internal channels for whistleblowers, not draconian measures aimed at chilling speech.