18 May 1999. Thanks to BD.

The Progressive Review 5/17/99


Sam Smith

In a major move almost entirely ignored by the media, the House of
Representatives voted to make it a crime to reveal not only the names of
current CIA agents but of former ones as well. The House also voice voted
mandatory sentencing for those convicted of revealing names.

The effect of the legislation is to provide still more cover for illegal CIA
activity, particularly in this country. It could soon well be against the
law to reveal W.J. Clinton's involvement with the agency going back to
Oxford days, or George Bush's decades-long affiliation with the CIA before
he was named its director. Other past examples of crucial information that
might soon be illegal to reveal: the 400 mainstream journalists who once
worked for the CIA, the Washington Post's Benjamin Bradlee's work for the
agency, the names of CIA operatives involved in drug smuggling in this
country out of such places as Mena AK, and the names of CIA operatives
illegally placed in city police departments in positions as high as chief.

One of the few restraints on rogue activities of the CIA has been public
exposure by the media. Even under present circumstances this can be
dangerous and difficult. For example, when California journalist Gary Webb
revealed the ties between the agency and west coast drug dealers, Webb came
under heavy attack by papers like the Washington Post, which has long been
close to the agency.

Ironically, the same measure that granted lifelong impunity to criminal CIA
agents, gave new credence to Webb's charges. The measure specifically bans
the CIA from engaging the in drug business that Webb accused them of.
Would the measure apply to reporters revealing the agency connections of a
Bill Bradlee or W.J. Clinton? Most likely, because in the process of telling
the CIA what it couldn't do with drug traffickers, it defined an employee of
the agency as including anyone "acting on behalf, or with the approval, of
an element of the intelligence community."

In other words, under these rules, Gary Webb could go to jail for 10 years
for revealing the very wrongs the House thought serious enough to
specifically ban the agency from doing in the future.

So far TPR has only been able to find one major media mention of this
extraordinary and dangerous new legislation. Reuters devoted a few lines to
it in an account of the CIA appropriations bill.

Excerpted from: House debate on HR 1555, Intelligence Authorization Act for FY2000: http://jya.com/hr1555-talk.txt

[Congressional Record: May 13, 1999 (House)]
[Page H3112-H3141]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



       Amendment No. 10 offered by Mr. Sweeney:
       At the end of title III (page 10, after line 2), insert the
     following new section:


       (a) In General.--Section 606(4)(A) of the National Security
     Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 426(4)(A)) is amended--
       (1) by striking ``an officer or employee'' and inserting
     ``a present or retired officer or employee''; and
       (2) by striking ``a member'' and inserting ``a present or
     retired member''.
       (b) Imposition of Minimum Prison Sentences for
     Violations.--Section 601 of the National Security Act of 1947
     (50 U.S.C. 421) is amended--
       (1) in subsection (a), by inserting ``not less than five
     and'' after ``or imprisoned'';
       (2) in subsection (b), by inserting ``not less than 30
     months and'' after ``or imprisoned''; and
       (3) in subsection (c), by inserting ``not less than 18
     months and'' after ``or imprisoned''.

  (Mr. SWEENEY asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
  Mr. SWEENEY. Mr. Chairman, before addressing my amendment, allow me
to first express my strong support for the intelligence authorization
bill and commend the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Goss) and the
gentleman from California (Mr. Dixon), the ranking member, for their
great work on this important bill.
  Mr. Chairman, our intelligence community is truly our first line of
defense; and we must do everything in our power to ensure that our
counterintelligence operations are as strong as our potential enemies.
The amendment I am offering today is intended to complement this fine
bill on an important national security issue, the protection of our
intelligence agents.
  Mr. Chairman, my amendment simply increases the criminal penalty for
individuals who expose covert agents and expands the Intelligence
Identities Protection Act to protect the identities of former agents as
  First and foremost, my amendment establishes a minimum mandatory
penalty for the willful identification of a United States intelligence
agent. The existing criminal penalties against such an offense are
woefully inadequate. While several lesser criminal offenses require
mandatory minimums, few are as consequential to the interests of our
national security as the protection of those who serve our country in
this capacity.
  Secondly, the amendment extends the scope of these protections to
former covert agents as only current agents are now covered by the law.
By increasing the criminal penalties for disclosing identities for
existing agents and by including former agents, my amendment
accomplishes several important national security objectives and
appropriately emphasizes the high priority with which we make national
security. It protects agents and former agents from possible harm as a
result of the disclosure of their true identities and past locations
and activities. It also protects the entire intelligence network that
often remains in place after an individual agent leaves his or her

                              {time}  1215

  By protecting retired agents, the amendment protects those active
operatives who may have assumed the former agents' positions.
  Through the Freedom of Information Act people obtain information
relevant to U.S. intelligence operations. Currently no statutory
protection exists to prohibit identification of retired intelligence
agents. This initiative strengthens the penalties against disclosing
the information that identifies covert agents. Penalties in my
amendment are proportional, yet tougher to those which exist under
current law.
  The majority of our current and former intelligence agents serve or

[[Page H3123]]

have served the United States at considerable risk, Mr. Chairman, and
there is absolutely no justification for exposing them to danger.
  Identifying current or former agents warrants serious criminal
liability, and my amendment does just that. Ensure the safety of our
intelligence community and provide adequate penalties to those who
jeopardize America's national security by voting yes on the Sweeney
amendment to H.R. 1555.

   Amendment Offered by Mr. Goss to Amendment No. 10 Offered by Mr.

  Mr. GOSS. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment to the amendment.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Amendment offered by Mr. Goss to amendment No. 10 offered
     by Mr. Sweeney:
       Strike subsection (b) of section 304, as proposed to be
     added by the amendment and insert the following:
       (b) Imposition of Minimum Prison Sentences for
     Violations.--Section 601 of the National Security Act of 1947
     (50 U.S.C. 421) is amended--
       (1) in subsection (a), by striking ``shall be fined not
     more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or
     both.'' and inserting ``shall be imprisoned not less than
     five years and not more than ten years and fined not more
     than $50,000.''.
       (2) in subsection (b), by striking ``shall be fined not
     more than $25,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or
     both.'' and inserting ``shall be imprisoned not less than 30
     months and not more than five years and fined not more than
       (3) in subsection (c), by striking ``shall be fined not
     more than $15,000 or imprisoned not more than three years, or
     both.'' and inserting ``shall be imprisoned not less than 18
     months and not more than three years and fined not more than

  Mr. GOSS (during the reading). Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent
that the amendment to the amendment be considered as read and printed
in the Record.
  The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from
  There was no objection.
  Mr. GOSS. Mr. Chairman, the perfecting amendment to the Sweeney
amendment that I have offered I am told makes a technical correction.
The amendment filed contained a drafting error, and as a result, would
not impose a true mandatory minimum sentencing requirement, which was
the intent. Whether we agree or not, the intent was to make it
  The amendment clarifies the intent of the amendment to toughen the
sentencing standards and impose mandatory minimums. I understand, in
plain English, it is both a penalty and mandatory time.
  I would ask the gentleman from New York, is my understanding correct?
  Mr. SWEENEY. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. GOSS. I yield to the gentleman from New York.
  Mr. SWEENEY. That is correct, Mr. Chairman, that was my intent.
  Mr. GOSS. Reclaiming my time, then, Mr. Chairman, and going to what
that would leave us with on the Sweeney amendment if the secondary
amendment is considered and approved is that we would have an amendment
which would in fact deal with the Agent Identities Protection Act and
put some more teeth into it.
  I would point out that Mr. Solomon, our colleague from New York,
former chairman of the Committee on Rules, offered a similar amendment
in 1981 which I am told passed the House by some 300 votes and then
disappeared in conference, as sometimes happens.
  As Members will recall, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act
penalizes the unauthorized disclosure of identities of covert employees
and assets of the United States. This is willful disclosure, we are
talking about here. We are not talking about an accident or a slip of
the tongue or leaving a document someplace by a mistake. Those are bad
things. We are talking about setting out to deliberately expose
classified information that can result in harm to an individual,
serious harm.
  Mr. Chairman, I understand originally that the act was offered in
1979 by Chairman Boland in response to the disclosure of identities of
CIA officers and assets by Philip Agee, Louis Wolf, and others. The Act
is sharply focused upon present and former cleared employees and upon
those who publish deliberate and repeated disclosures of the type found
in the Covert Action Information Bulletin.
  The Act has been an useful tool for prosecutors and the intelligence
community, although it has not been applied aggressively, as some
prefer, including me. The U.S. government has charged some current and
former employees, and as an apparent consequence of that, the
disclosures have been abated. But it has been a pretty weak tool. It
has not been able to be used as it was originally intended.
  I honestly believe that the amendment of the gentleman from New York
(Mr. Sweeney) does add extra strength, and does it in a reasonable way.
We are not throwing out all the rules of judicial protection or
anything like that. What we are basically doing is putting people on
notice that for willful disclosure of agent identities, there is a
penalty. It is a serious penalty, because it is a serious crime.
  Having said that, I will urge acceptance of the Sweeney amendment, as
perfected by our secondary amendment.
  Mr. DIXON. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of
  Mr. Chairman, I would like to congratulate the gentleman from New
York (Mr. Sweeney) on his amendment. I will not object to it, but I do
have some concerns with it.
  As I understand the amendment and the perfecting amendment, basically
it does two things. It covers retired agents, but the concern I have is
the decision to make penalties, whether they be incarceration or money
fines, mandatory without hearings. Generally speaking, I am opposed to
mandatory sentences. I have great faith in the Federal judiciary.
  I do not think that we should move this fast without some hearings on
this to find out if this type of activity should be in the class of
mandatory sentences. I would tell the gentleman from New York, I will
not object to it, but I would like to reserve to discuss this further
at the conference.
  Mr. SWEENEY. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. DIXON. I yield to the gentleman from New York.
  Mr. SWEENEY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman's remarks. The
gentleman is correct in saying that what the bill essentially does is
extend the protection to retired agents.
  Also, in establishing mandatory minimums, my intent was to raise the
level of Section 601 to the highest levels and the highest priorities,
which I believe our national security interests dictate.
  I will point out that what the mandatory minimum sentences that I
have prescribed in my amendment do is cut in half the mandatory
maximums, so I think proportionately, it is very reasonable.
  Let me also just say that in relationship to Federal mandatory
minimums, there are hundreds, literally hundreds, as I am sure the
gentleman knows, of Federal crimes, including food stamp fraud,
including bribery of meat inspectors, that have mandatory minimum
  I think in order for this Congress to send a very strong message
about the protection of agents and former agents, the inclusion of the
mandatory minimum is an essential part.
  Mr. DIXON. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman, I may ultimately agree
with the gentleman from New York. I just think it is worth more than 5
minutes of time on the floor, and I will reserve to address this issue
in conference.
  The CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the
gentleman from Florida (Mr. Goss) to the amendment offered by the
gentleman from New York (Mr. Sweeney.)
  The amendment to the amendment was agreed to.
  The CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the
gentleman from New York (Mr. Sweeney), as amended.
  The amendment, as amended, was agreed to.