The CIA is pushing for an expansion of a 37-year-old law that would deter journalists from covering national security issues or reporting on leaked documents. Thanks to a disillusioned CIA case officer’s actions in 1975, there are currently a few limits to what can or can’t be reported about covert operatives working overseas.
In 1975, Philip Agee published a memoir about his years with the CIA. Attached to his memoir — which detailed his growing discontentment with the CIA’s clandestine support of overseas dictators — was a list of 250 CIA agents or informants. In response to this disclosure, Congress passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), which criminalized disclosing the identity of covert intelligence agents.
The IIPA did what it could to protect journalists by limiting the definition of “covert agent” to agents serving overseas and then only those who were currently working overseas when the disclosure occurred. It also required the government to show proof the person making the disclosure was “engaged in a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose” covert agents. The law was amended in 1999 to expand the coverage to include covert agents working overseas within five years of the disclosure.
Now, the CIA is seeking to strip these protections from the IIPA. The agency wants the “overseas” requirement removed, allowing it (and other intelligence agencies) to designate whoever they want as “protected” by the IIPA in perpetuity. The removal of the overseas requirement eliminates the five-year period. Disclosing identities years after the fact will now be a criminal act….
It’s long been known that the CIA has covert agents operating illegally within the USA. Will that become legal now?