Clinton Vetoes Leakers Bill

ByABC News
November 4, 2000, 3:08 PM

N E W   Y O R K, Nov. 4 -- President Clinton today vetoed a bill thatwould have criminalized the leaking of government secrets.

The legislation, he said, might chill legitimate activities that areat the heart of a democracy.

The proposal had drawn criticism from news organizations which said it would stifle their ability to obtain information vital to the public.

We must never forget that the free flow of information isessential to a democratic society, Clinton said in a statement.

He cited the badly flawed provision as the reason he vetoeda bill that authorizes spending for the CIA, National SecurityAgency and other intelligence activities for the fiscal year thatbegan Oct. 1.

The total intelligence budget is classified and is not made public, but is believed to be about $30 billion.

More Specific Provisions

The president urged Congress to pursue a more narrowly drawnprovision tested in public hearings so that those they representcan also be heard on this important issue.

The provision would have extended penalties that now exist forleaking classified, national defense information, to the leaking ofother classified, but nondefense data that could harm the UnitedStates if made public or given to foreign governments.

Clinton said he agreed with congressional sponsors of thelegislation that unauthorized disclosures of classified informationcan be extraordinarily harmful to United States national securityand that too many such disclosures occur.

Those who disclose classified information inappropriatelycommit a gross breach of the public trust and may recklessly putour national security at risk, he said.

Clinton, however, said that in dispute was not the seriousnessof the problem but the best way to respond to it.

As president ... it is my responsibility to protect not onlyour governments vital information from improper disclosure butalso to protect the rights of citizens to receive the informationnecessary for democracy to work, he said.