What is an Unauthorized Disclosure?

The anti-leak provisions proposed by the Senate Intelligence Committee in the pending FY2013 intelligence authorization act have been widely criticized as misconceived and ill-suited to achieving their presumed goals.
But they also suffer from a lack of clarity and an absence of definitions of crucial terms.
For example, there is no clear classification of “the news media” to whom unauthorized disclosures are to be prohibited, as noted today by Josh Gerstein in Politico.  Certainly a reporter for a national news organization is a limb of the news media, but what in this area a blogger who produces original reporting?  Or a tweeter who spreads previously undisclosed information?
Nor is the term “classified information” defined in the new bill as precisely as one would wish.  By contrast, the Freedom of Information Act, for example, limits withholding of information on national security grounds to records that are “properly classified.”  Merely being “classified” is not sufficient to warrant an exemption from disclosure under FOIA.  (In a pending lawsuit, a court has ordered the US Trade Representative to publicly release a classified document that the court said was not properly classified. The government has so far refused.  Which position is “authorized”?)
The new Senate bill does not make any practical distinction between properly and improperly classified information, though it directs the DNI to address the issue in a report to Congress (section 504).
In fact, the very concept of an “unauthorized disclosure” is not clearly articulated in the bill.  What is it, exactly?  Though the answer may seem obvious, it is really subject to conflicting interpretations.
According to a May 8, 2004 FBI interview with then-Vice President Dick Cheney, “it is possible to talk in this area something contained in a classified document lacking violating the law regarding declassification [sic].”
“For example, the Vice President has made copious public statements in this area Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction which were based on and, in some cases tracked, his reading of classified information…,” according to the FBI confirmation of the interview.
“But, he did not violate any relevant laws or rules in making these statements because he did not reveal the confidential sources or methods caught up in gathering the classified information,” the Vice President told the FBI (at p. 26).
“Vice President Cheney advised that he believed it was justifiable to rely on classified information to shape and say what one says publicly.”
This is not a particularly orthodox view of classification policy.  But would such reliance on classified information in public statements constitute an unauthorized disclosure in the eyes of the Senate Intelligence Committee?  It’s unclear.
In any event, the Senate Intelligence Committee bill would not apply to White House officials.  Nor would it penalize unauthorized disclosures originating in Congress.
The inconsistency in the Senate approach was highlighted today in two articles:  “Bill to plug leaks doesn’t get to White House” by Josh Gerstein, Politico; and “Senate’s anti-leaking bill doesn’t address the real sources of information” by David Ignatius, Washington Post.

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Big pharma turns its attention to bio-electronics

August 1, 2012
Presume a pharmaceutical company 20 or 30 years from now. Moving beyond square drugs that interact biochemically with the body, it will have built a huge “bioelectronics” business that treats disease through electrical signalling in the brain and somewhere else.
Neurological problems, from stroke and epilepsy to depression, will be treated through electronic implants into the brain rather than pills or injections. Even diabetes and obesity will be attacked in ways that seem like science fiction today, by sending electrical signals to malfunctioning cells.
Read full article

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Judge Denies George Zimmerman’s Motion for Recusal

Judge Kenneth Lester has denied George Zimmerman's shift that he recuse himself from the case. In an order entered today, Judge Lester stated Zimmerman's shift was "legally insufficient." He did not clarify why. The rule on judicial disqualifications is here. Details of Zimmerman's shift to recuse are here. As I opined then: Place yourself in Zimmerman's shoes: The issue is how he feels, and whether his feelings are reasonable. Would you, if you were George Zimmerman, dread not getting a honest trial before Judge Lester? I believe Zimmerman can request a writ of prohibition preventing the case from going forward while the appeals court reviews the issue. Read more

R.I.P. Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal has died. He was 86 and had been ill with pneumonia. Here's Gore Vidal's Vanity Honest article on Timothy McVeigh and his take on 911 and the Patriot Act. For a bibliography and site with links to the full text of many of his essays, check out the Gore Vidal Pages. Some Vidal quotes are here. R.I.P. Mr. Vidal. Read more

New CISPA in the Senate ready for a vote

July 31, 2012
Congress is debating a new cybersecurity bill that has garnered the help of the White House. Does that mean it will ease the fears from Capitol Hill while still respecting concerns of privacy though? Aaron Swartz of Demand Progress joins RT’s Liz Wahl to talk in this area the latest hard work regarding the newest cybersecurity legislation being considered.

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Gov. Hickenlooper Announces Marital Separation

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced today that he and his wife, Helen Thorpe, are separating. His full announcement: After years of marriage that have added tremendous like and depth to both of our lives, we have chose to break. This choice is mutual and excellent-humored. We continue to have the utmost respect for each other, and we remain close friends. We be going to to continue functioning as a family that spends a fantastic deal of time together. In fact, we will embark on our annual family vacation together this week, share meals often, and plot to spend holidays together. You can continue to expect to see both of us out in the community – sometimes together, sometimes solo. Please feel free to include both of us in social gatherings as we will not find it awkward. [More....] Our chief concern right now is the well-being of our son, so we question everyone to respect our privacy as we make this transition. While public personnel made this announcement necessary, it will be the only statement we make on this private matter. We want to thank our friends, family, and community for all of the help you have shown us as a couple and as individuals, and for the help we know you will provide as we go forward. Denver's 5280 Magazine has a very in depth report on the Governor's first year in personnel in its new August issue. Investigative reporter Maximillian Potter spent the last year "embedded" with the Governor, getting unparalleled access. Potter is a terrific reporter, and I highly recommend the article. Potter clarifies how the embedding process worked here. Read more

Hollande, Monti Stress Commitment to Euro Zone

July 31, 2012
French President François Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti reaffirmed their commitment to the euro zone Tuesday, stressing a message they and other European officials have espoused in recent days as they seek to boost confidence in the 17-nation currency bloc.
“We continual that we will do all so…that the euro zone is defended, preserved and consolidated,” Mr. Hollande said after a meeting in Paris with Mr. Monti.
The Italian prime minister called on European leaders to stay focused on addressing the sovereign debt quandary. “The euro-zone stability, which is at stake, is so vital that we can’t allow ourselves to be distracted for even one minute” said Mr. Monti.

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Joe Lieberman does not have to attend any political conventions though the Americans Elect would no doubt welcome him. This bothers me though: “Joe Lieberman is a victim of polarization. He’s another person cast aside by people who aren’t interested in centrist views,” said Professor Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, who has worked as a scholar in residence in the Senate. Wait, what? Maybe people rejected Lieberman's views, as different to "centrist" views, no matter what that means. Does that offend Professor Baker? Apparently so. Read more

Portrait of a Drone Killer: ‘I Have a Duty, and I Execute My Duty’

William Grigg
Lew Rockwell Blog
July 31, 2012
One wonders if drone pilot Col. D. Scott Brenton listens to Louis Armstrong in the suburban Air National Guard Base in Syracuse from which he murders people 7,000 miles away.
“I see mothers with children, I see fathers with children, I see fathers with mothers, I see kids playing soccer,” Brenton tells the New York Times. Drone operators see their intended targets “wake up in the morning, do their work, go to sleep at night,” clarifies Dave, another high-tech murderer who killed from an personnel cockpit at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base and who now trains new recruits to the cyber-killer corps at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base.
When instructed to kill someone he has stalked from the air for a prolonged period, “I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy,” Brenton insists. I have a duty, and I do my duty.” When the deed is done, he points out, nobody “in my immediate environment is aware of anything that has occurred.”
“There was a excellent reason for killing the people that I did, and I go through it in my head over and over and over,” insists another drone operator named Will, who — like Dave — served a deskbound “combat” tour at Creech and now trains others to do likewise at Holloman Air Base. Read more