ACLU Praises Clinton Veto of Government Secrecy Measure

November 4, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded President Clinton for vetoing an intelligence bill because of a badly flawed provision that would have made it extremely difficult for the media to meet its First Amendment obligation to expose governmental misdeeds.

Acting on the last day before the measure would have become law without his signature, President Clinton vetoed the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001” (H.R. 4392) because of a provision that he said “may unnecessarily chill legitimate activities that are at the heart of a democracy.”

In a letter to the President, the ACLU said that the proposed measure would have reversed 50 years of resistance to CIA efforts to make it a crime for any person with a security clearance to disclose classified information without authorization. The sweeping measure was enacted by Congress without any public hearings and was inserted into the an annual intelligence bill with virtually no public input.

“We praise President Clinton for recognizing that the government should not be allowed to hide its mistakes, incompetence, political embarrassments or criminal behavior,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “This sweeping provision would have compromised the ability of the press to serve the vital role envisioned for it in First Amendment. Had it become law, it would have shielded government misconduct by threatening with jail time the whistleblowers who would expose it, and the reporters who protect their sources’ identities.”

Responding to a last-minute alert, ACLU activists sent more than 6,500 faxes and emails in little more than 24 hours to President Clinton to urge him to veto the legislation. Newspapers across the country had also editorialized against the measure.

The ACLU letter to President Clinton can be found online at:

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