A sweeping proposal by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure or publication of classified information about U.S. Government activities relating to terrorism was abruptly withdrawn on February 28 in the face of vigorous protests by public interest, press and First Amendment advocacy groups.
But then a modified, more narrowly focused version was reintroduced on the Senate floor on March 2 as an amendment to S.4, the pending bill on enacting the remaining recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
The new Kyl amendment (pdf) would penalize employees of the House or Senate or other authorized personnel who knowingly disclose classified information that is contained in a report to Congress.
“Singling out employees of Congress for criminal sanctions would be virtually unprecedented,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies.
It also “raises serious separation of powers concerns,” she said, since classification criteria and practices are dictated by the executive branch. “And it would demonstrate a lack of confidence by the Congress that it can police its own house.”