July 22, 2014

House panel looks at information leak laws

A panel chaired by Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner takes up the issue of citizens and reporters leaking information, a topic raised after secret operations against Al-Qaeda and cyber-attacks on Iran have been revealed.

Those who testified Wednesday before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security brought up the issue of outdated laws like the Federal Espionage Act. The nearly century old law is the primary tool of prosecuting leaks of classified information. However, concerns were raised on its effectiveness in the demands of the information age.

Sensenbrenner agreed there needs to be revisions to current law. “The type of espionage that this country faces now is not the type of espionage the German spies did in the march to World War I,” said the Republican lawmaker.

Sensenbrenner also noted existing law protects whistleblowers who divulge classified information but only if the recipients have security clearances such as those in Congress.

He suggested there should be some “strict liability” for those who leak classified information parties who lack those security clearances.

Other testimony included suggestions the government’s guidelines for classifying information should be revised.

AUDIO: Sensenbrenner’s closing statements (5:25)