Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is holding firm on free speech rights. Last week, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (S. 3454) was “hotlined”—the first step in clearing a bill for unanimous consent in the Senate. Usually, if there are no objections to the hotlined bill within a given amount of time, and leadership agrees, it is passed. But Wyden put the brakes on this legislation due to his concerns about the bill’s so-called anti-leak provisions.
Many of the provisions in Title V of the bill would reduce access to information the public has a right to know, put whistleblowers in jeopardy, and threaten government accountability. Thanks to Wyden’s objection, the Senate was unable to fast-track this far-reaching bill. In June, the Project On Government Oversight and more than 25 of our allies sent a letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees objecting to the bill’s anti-speech provisions, which diminish government transparency and jeopardize whistleblowers’ rights. The letter states:
While we recognize that leaks of appropriately and properly classified information are a serious problem, the American public requires access to some information about government conduct in order to foster an informed and meaningful national discussion, particularly about such issues as the use of drones to kill American citizens and other persons.
POGO and our allies in the government accountability community are currently organizing another letter thanking Senate leadership for delaying action on the bill until these concerns can be fully addressed. Any legislation intended to stop leaks of classified information should be carefully considered through an open process that provides ample opportunity for engaging in debate.