Clinton vetoes bill that would make leaking information a federal crime

WASHINGTON: In a triumph for lobbyists, government spokespeople breathed a sigh of relief last week when President Clinton surprisingly vetoed an intelligence bill that threatened the nature of their trade.

WASHINGTON: In a triumph for lobbyists, government spokespeople breathed a sigh of relief last week when President Clinton surprisingly vetoed an intelligence bill that threatened the nature of their trade.

WASHINGTON: In a triumph for lobbyists, government spokespeople breathed a sigh of relief last week when President Clinton surprisingly vetoed an intelligence bill that threatened the nature of their trade.

Contained within the bill - which had been widely predicted to be rubberstamped by the president - was a provision fiercely opposed by media and civil rights groups that would have made it a federal crime to leak any 'properly classified' information to the press (PRWeek, October 30).

The bill's unspecific language concerned government spokespeople, who feared they could potentially be prosecuted for simply doing their jobs.

Hundreds of government documents are stamped classified every day, which increases the potential for spokespeople to unknowingly disclose the wrong information.

Said Susan Hanson, defense public affairs officer, 'When asked a question, we try to use information that we have been cleared to provide, but sometimes it goes back to a classified source. The language of this bill was so narrow ... that it could come back to haunt you.'

Many members of the media members were also concerned because government 'leaks' have always been depended upon to ensure the free flow of information.

In addition, journalists were worried that they could be prosecuted for refusal to reveal their sources when a questionable leak did occur.

So the Newspaper Association of America, The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press and similar groups raised their voices in order to sway the president's decision. Two versions of a letter criticizing the bill were sent to the Oval Office. Additionally, editorial writers were called upon to address the issue.

Their efforts were successful, as articles sprang up on the op-ed pages of major dailies nationwide, and the president even used language lifted from these pieces in his statement regarding the veto.



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