Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft


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.