Classified-Info Crackdown

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Isikoff

The Obama administration is quietly ratcheting up its campaign against national-security leaks with a series of moves that are surprising intelligence-community veterans. One recent example: a memo, signed by National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair before his departure last month, that will require Justice Department prosecutors to make quick decisions about charging federal employees suspected of disclosing classified info.

The memo, which got full backing from the intel agencies, lays out a new protocol for the handling of leak probes. Justice prosecutors will have to meet deadlines once intelligence agencies refer to them instances of suspected leaking, says a senior intel official who asked not to be identified talking about a sensitive document. If they don't, the cases will be returned to the agencies, where officials could impose tough disciplinary sanctions--like stripping employees of security clearance--even when there's not enough evidence to criminally prosecute them. "If you're in the intelligence community and you lose your security clearance, you're pretty much out of luck," says another administration official who requested anonymity for the same reason. (Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says the new policy will "streamline" leak probes and "help to detect and deter unauthorized disclosures." A Justice spokesman says, "We take leaks of classified information extremely seriously.")

The impetus for the new protocol was frustration with the fact that, under George W. Bush, high-profile probes (into disclosures about secret CIA prisons and the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping) dragged on for years. …