ARCHIVED: Joint Library Letter Regarding Hearing on the "Leaks" Criminalization Provision of the Intelligence Authorization Bill

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August 31, 2001

The Honorable Bob Graham
Chairman, Select Committee on Intelligence
211 Hart Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Sent via messenger

Dear Senator Graham:

On behalf of the American Library Association (ALA), the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), we write to you today to request that you not hold a hearing on September 5th on a "leaks" criminalization provision under consideration as part of the Intelligence Authorization bill presently before your Committee. We further request that you not include the "leaks" provision in the Chairman's mark or in any legislation that moves to the Senate floor this session.

ALA, AALL and ARL are strongly committed to broad public access to government information and the public's right-to-know. Together, we represent over 80,000 librarians nationwide. Last year, we opposed a similar provision that was added to the Intelligence Authorization Act, legislation subsequently vetoed by President Clinton.

Having just recently learned of the scheduled hearing on the "leaks" provision, we do not believe that there has been sufficient time or adequate public notice to all stakeholders about this hearing. Further, we believe that authorization legislation is not the appropriate vehicle for the "leaks" proposal that raises very serious First Amendment and balance of power implications. Participation in this debate by all interested stakeholders, including researchers, the library community and others, requires more time and opportunity to prepare for a public hearing on what we believe should be separate legislation rather than an add-on to an authorization bill.

We continue to believe that the "leaks" proposal is overly broad. We are very concerned that the provision would diminish the public's right-to-know and raise First Amendment implications by discouraging dissent and disclosure of governmental misconduct and by criminalizing disclosure of information that may be unmarked but classified.

If the intent of Congress is to assign new powers to the executive branch, then at a minimum there should be full public hearings and debate before all appropriate congressional committees, including the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a stand-alone bill. Lastly, it is our understanding that President Bush is still considering policy issues in this arena and the Administration has not requested such legislation at this time. Based on these facts, we see no need to expedite the "leaks" proposal without a full analysis and review, including opportunities for public comment and participation.

Mr. Chairman, we therefore respectfully request that you postpone the September 5th hearing and that you not include the "leaks" provision in the Chairman's mark or in any legislation that moves to the Senate floor this session. Thank you.


Emily Sheketoff
Executive Director
ALA Washington Office

Prudence Adler
Associate Executive Director
Association of Research Libraries

Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative
American Association of Law Libraries