By Suzanne Kelly
The Senate committee that oversees the country's spy agencies has approved 12 tough new measures aimed at stopping leaks of classified information.
Among the stiff new reporting requirements are crackdowns on communications between intelligence employees and members of the media, requiring a government official to notify Congress if the communication includes classified information or information that is declassified for the purposes of sharing.
The measures included in the Fiscal Year 2013 Intelligence Authorization Act come amid heightened criticism of the Obama administration for officials sharing classified information with journalists about key national security matters.
Earlier this summer, the Department of Justice announced it was investigating leaks that included information published in the New York Times regarding U.S. efforts to undermine Iran's nuclear program using cyberattacks. In a foreign policy speech this week, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticised the administration of leaking to "seek political advantage.”
The measures put a burden on the director of national intelligence (DNI) to not only maintain records of all authorized disclosures of classified information made to media personnel, but they also would require the DNI to offer his candid assessment on whether the measures should be extended to include the executive branch of government.
The executive branch is not covered under the current rules governing the intelligence community, or for that matter, neither are members of Congress, who are also privy to receiving classified information and have been accused from time to time of leaking.
DNI James Clapper has testified twice before the Senate Select Committee in as many months and is a firm believer that leaks are a government-wide problem.
"I told Members (of Congress) that in order for any legislation focused on stopping leaks to be effective, it must be uniform and universal," Clapper said in a statement provided to CNN on Wednesday.
Under the new rules, the DNI would be required to designate an office charged with "proactively" identifying “unauthorized disclosures of classified information."
The measures mirror some moves already taken within the intelligence community (IC) that put further requirements on reporting media contacts as well as adding a new, specific question to the counterintelligence polygraph exam that is meant to determine whether or not a person has disclosed classified material to a member of the media.
"We're already holding ourselves to a higher standard in the intelligence community," said Clapper. "I can't emphasize enough that these measures are not an indictment of the IC, they are examples of our willingness to be held to the highest standard of accountability. I hope others will follow our lead."
The measures also take aim at individuals who are given access to classified information due to their positions on advisory boards, for example, and also have consulting contracts with media organizations. The new rules would end their ability to do both.
Punishment for intelligence community employees who violate the rules ranges from a letter of reprimand to a revocation of security clearance or ultimately, losing their job and their government pension.
Pam Benson contributed to this report