Open Government Groups Denounce Proposed Penalties for Classified Leaks

August 3, 2012

Twenty-three open government and free speech groups are denouncing a Senate bill that would strip current or former intelligence employees of their pensions if an agency head decides an employee has improperly leaked classified information.

Revoking pension benefits “is an extraordinary penalty that should not be imposed unless the government proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” the groups, which include the Project on Government Oversight, said Monday in an open letter to the Senate.

Current law allows the government to revoke current or former employees’ pensions if they are convicted of illegally disclosing classified information. But the Senate’s 2013 intelligence authorization bill, S 3454, which was passed 14-1 July 25 by the Senate Intelligence Committee, would allow agencies to impose the penalty without a criminal conviction.

The bill provides no avenues for independent due process and establishes no legal burdens of proof that the Director of National Intelligence or other agency head must meet. As a result, the groups said, the government could use its “unrestrained discretion” to suppress speech criticizing the intelligence community and retaliate against whistle-blowers.

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