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Category Archives: Secrecy & Leaks

An Approach to Ameliorating Press-IC Tensions Over Classified Information

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Friday, May 22, 2015 at 2:55 PM

I’ve been thinking about the exchange over the past couple of weeks—much of which took place on Lawfare—between the New York Times and the intelligence community over the naming of CIA undercover officers in a Times story. (A brief recap in links: here are Bob Litt’s original comments, the 20 former intelligence officers’ letter, Jack’s interview with Dean Baquet, my . . .
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Intelligence Officials’ Unpersuasive Response To the NYT’s Identification of Three Undercover CIA Officers

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Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 11:02 AM

The New York Times identified three undercover senior CIA officials in an April 25 story by Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo about oversight of the CIA’s lethal drone operations. (Background here and here.)  ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt and twenty former CIA officials, all of whom I admire, argue that the Times was wrong to do so. Their arguments taken together are that (1) . . .
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20 Senior Former CIA Officials Criticize NYT For Publishing Names of Covert Operatives

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Monday, May 11, 2015 at 5:24 PM

Twenty senior former CIA officials—including every CIA Director (including DCIs) dating back to William Webster (1987-91)—wrote a letter to the NYT to take issue with NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet’s defense (in this interview on Lawfare) of his decision to publish the names of the three covert CIA operatives in a story a few weeks . . .
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The Increasing State Practice and Opinio Juris on Spying

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 4:30 PM

Ben flagged today that the Germans have been caught out spying on friends and allies. What makes this a story is the way the Germans responded more than a year ago when Snowden’s leaks revealed that the NSA was spying on Angela Merkel: with shock and awe. Stepping back a bit from the substance of NSA’s . . .
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Another Response to the New York Times Flap

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 7:03 PM

An intelligence community reader writes in with the following response to my post this morning on Dean Baquet’s interview with Jack: The issue is not [only] whether the true name and affiliation [of the covert officer] are known to the editors and reporters of the New York Times, and to the persons in their professional and social . . .
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Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times Weighs In

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 2:34 PM

The estimable Mark Mazzetti—the New York Times national security reporter who wrote the story over the weekend that prompted the outing-CIA-officers flap—writes in with the following note in response to my post this morning reflecting on Jack’s interview with Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet: You summarized Dean’s points pretty well, but I would strongly emphasize another point. These . . .
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A Thought on Dean Baquet’s Comments to Jack

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 11:47 AM

This morning, Jack published an interview he conducted yesterday with New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet about the paper’s decision the other day to publish the names of three covert CIA officers. Earlier this week, DNI General Counsel Robert Litt blasted this decision, and—among other things—Baquet in the interview defends it. Baquet offers a . . .
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Interview With Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of New York Times, on Publication Decisions About Intelligence Secrets, and More

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 9:10 AM

On April 25, two days after President Obama announced that a U.S. drone strike accidentally killed two innocent hostages, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo published a story in the New York Times about congressional and White House support for the CIA’s “targeted killing program.” A major point in the story was that some of the . . .
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The Latest Erosion Of Norms Against Publishing Classified Information

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Director of National Intelligence General Counsel Bob Litt says the NYT “disgraced itself” by “publishing an article in which it purported to name three covert CIA officers.” The article in question identified the “chief of operations during the birth of the agency’s detention and interrogation program [who] then, as head of the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center, . . .
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DNI General Counsel Robert Litt: “The New York Times Disgraced Itself”

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Monday, April 27, 2015 at 9:57 PM

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article on congressional support for the C.I.A.’s drone program. In describing the program’s leadership, the Times saw fit to reveal the identity of three people it claims are covert C.I.A. operatives. The publication of these names did not sit well, apparently, with Robert Litt, General Counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. . . .
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The Perils of Partial Official Acknowledgment

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Friday, April 24, 2015 at 9:20 AM

Yesterday the President acknowledged that the United States inadvertently killed an American citizen and an Italian citizen held hostage by al-Qaida.  The killings, he said, took place during “a U.S. counterterrorism operation targeting an al Qaeda compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.”  The President also directed his press secretary to acknowledge that the government inadvertently killed . . .
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Keeping Track of the US Intelligence Community’s Leakers

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Monday, April 20, 2015 at 8:13 AM

It’s getting hard to keep track of the U.S. intelligence community leakers without a scorecard. So here’s my attempt: Leaker #1: Chelsea Manning. Leaker #2: Edward Snowden. Leaker #3: The person who leaked secret documents to Jake Appelbaum, Laura Poitras and others in Germany: the Angela Merkel surveillance story, the TAO catalog, the X-KEYSCORE rules. . . .
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Private Defamation Action Dismissed on State Secrets Grounds

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Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 8:35 AM

This is a very interesting case. The other day, federal district judge Edgardo Ramos in New York threw out a defamation lawsuit between two private parties on the government’s intervening motion asserting the state secrets privilege. The case is Restis v. American Coalition Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI). The 18-page opinion is worth reading. Here are some highlights: According to . . .
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Did the New York Times Editorial Page Accuse General Petraeus of a Crime Spree?

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 11:44 AM

I’m not sure, but I think so. From today’s editorial, entitled, “Gen. Petraeus’s Light Punishment“: Mr. Petraeus, who charmed and provided extraordinary access to handpicked journalists and national security experts during his tours running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was all too familiar with the currency of classified information in the battleground of public . . .
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Recidivism Among Espionage Act Convicts

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Monday, March 16, 2015 at 5:06 PM

Anyone remember Samuel Loring Morrison? Espionage Act nerds certainly do. Morrison was the first person prosecuted and convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking classified material? Morrison was convicted in the 1980s of leaking satellite photos to Jane’s Defense Weekly. He was later pardoned retrospectively by President Clinton as part of Clinton’s spree of pardons on his . . .
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Chris Jenks on the Petraeus Plea

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Friday, March 6, 2015 at 8:28 AM

The estimable Chris Jenks writes in from Australia with the following thoughts on my piece yesterday on the David Petraeus plea: Appreciated your comments on Petraeus. One additional factor which resonates with me and I think most military folks is that Petraeus was a general court martial convening authority for a decade or more. He . . .
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Thoughts on the Petraeus Plea

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Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Over at The Intercept, Peter Maass complains that the plea deal for David Petraeus is “yet another example of a senior official treated leniently for the sorts of violations that lower-level officials are punished severely for.” At Bloomberg View, by contrast, columnist Eli Lake argues that, while wrong, Petraeus’s sins are just not that big a deal. This . . .
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The U.S. Intelligence Community and Non-Neutral Principles

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Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 3:30 PM

Last week, Ben’s NSA Constitution Day speech emerged after a long “declassification” process.  One puzzle Ben grapples with in this speech is why reasonable, educated Americans have–and will continue to have–such a high level of discomfort with what the NSA and other intelligence agencies do. The types of activities NSA is asked to do and the secrecy . . .
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The Moral Vacuity of The Intercept

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Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 1:22 PM

In our new book, Whistleblowers, Leaks and the Media, my co-editors and I talk at some length about what we characterize as the “fundamental tension” that lies at the heart of news reporting today involving national security matters.  The tension — between transparency and secrecy — is fundamental for two distinct reasons:  First, because at . . .
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Status of Various Executive Branch Agencies’ Guidelines Regarding U.S. Person Information

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Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 12:26 PM

From the website of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB): this helpful table, which was assembled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and released today. It describes the status of various agencies’ Attorney General-approved guidelines for collecting, retaining and disseminating U.S. person information pursuant to Executive Order 12,333. As the table reflects, . . .
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