by Suzanne Kelly
Discussions are ongoing over just how stringent new provisions should be as the Senate targets leakers in its upcoming Intelligence Authorization bill, according to a government source.
Many of the options up for consideration put far stricter limits on communications between intelligence officials and reporters, according to the source, who told CNN that early proposals included requiring government employees who provide background briefings to reporters to notify members of Congress ahead of time.
Such background meetings are not widely seen as opportunities to discuss classified programs. Reporters routinely use background briefings to gather contextual information on stories they are covering.
According to the government source, there were also discussions about consolidating some of the press offices within the intelligence community, limiting the number of people who are available to answer common media inquiries.
A separate intelligence source confirmed that the Senate committee and some members of the House intelligence committee have been reaching out to the intelligence community and the White House to discuss the proposed provisions.
CNN was the first to report last month on measures being implemented by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Those provisions include the addition of a new question to the counterintelligence polygraph test and calls for the polygraph to be given to a broader number of intelligence employees who have access to intelligence information.
Clapper also called for an intelligence community inspector general to lead independent investigations into the source of leaks when the Department of Justice declines to prosecute a particular leak case.
"These efforts will reinforce our professional values by sending a strong message that intelligence personnel always have, and always will, hold ourselves to the highest standard of professionalism," Clapper said in June. "It is my sincere hope that others across the government will follow our lead. It is the right thing to do on behalf of the American people and in the interest of our national security."
The debate over the expected provisions comes after a series of leaks of classified information. In May classified details were divulged about an ongoing intelligence operation involving a mole who had infiltrated an al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen that was planning an attack; another leak included details about the classified drone program; a third involved details of a cyber attack targeting an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility.
The FBI has launched an investigation into both the Yemen and cyber leaks, according to government officials.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, told reporters last month that the intelligence committee was working out details on the provisions.
"We are trying to find the right kind of provisions to put into language that will at least discourage people from committing leaks in the future," said Chambliss, the vice chairman of the intelligence committee.
There has been considerable debate over how effective new legislation would be in discouraging leaks if it did not cover members of Congress or the executive branch, who also have access to classified information.
The Senate's Intelligence Authorization bill is expected to be voted on by the committee after the members return from their July 4 recess.
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