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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.


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