Public's 'Right To Know' Must Be Protected

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This week, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will hold hearings to consider adding a provision to the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2002 that criminalizes the unauthorized disclosure of any classified information.

In effect, this would create an "official secrets act" that exists in other countries, but has always been rejected in the United States.

This provision would give the government more power to limit the public's right to know by making it a felony to disclose classified information. It would discourage government "whistle blowers" from coming forward with information that may shed light on inappropriate or unlawful government activities.

There are already sufficient laws that keep the delicate balance between the public's right to know and legitimate threats to our national security.

If a broad provision such as this had been in place in this country, these issues may never have come to light: The Pentagon Papers; The Iran-Contra Affair; government radiation and biological warfare experiments on unwitting Americans; safety violations in nuclear weapons manufacturing processes and nuclear power plants; lapses in security creating vulnerability to espionage, such as the case of former CIA agent Edward Lee Howard; and the waste, fraud and abuse in the defense industry.

This is a dangerous and misguided piece of legislation that needs to be stopped, and Arizonans can have a powerful voice if they speak up now.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. We urge our readers to contact Sen. Kyl and ask him to call for the removal of this provision, or at the very least, to postpone the hearings until the public is heard.

Sen. Kyl can be reached at his Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-4521, fax (202) 224-2207. In Phoenix, call (602) 840-1891, fax (602) 957-6838, or e-mail www.senate.gov/(tilde)kyl/contact.htm.

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