“The legislation ultimately will harm, not help, our national security interests (…) If left to stand, it will curtail legitimate journalistic scrutiny of a particularly important and sensitive area of government, creating the possibility that wrongdoing or wrong-headedness could flourish in that area, unchecked by public awareness.”
Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D) of Delaware — Member of the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence (April 6, 1982)
On June 23 1982, President Reagan visited the CIA Headquarters for the signing of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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UPDATE (June 23 2019) — A new Senate intelligence authorization bill would expand the current protection to include all unacknowledged intelligence personnel even if they never leave the country.
“At the request of the Central Intelligence Agency, the pending intelligence authorization bill includes a provision that would expand the definition of “covert agents” whose identities are protected from unauthorized disclosure. (…)
The bill would “protect the identities of all undercover intelligence officers, and United States citizens whose relationship to the United States is classified, regardless of the location of the individuals’ government service or time since separation of government service” (section 305).
See Report on the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, and 2020, Senate Intelligence Committee, June 11, 2019.
The expanded definition, if enacted, would likely imply increased withholding of historical and other intelligence records under the Freedom of Information Act.” [Secrecy News]
END of UPDATE
The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 is a United States federal law that makes it a federal crime for those with access to classified information, or those who systematically seek to identify and expose covert agents and have reason to believe that it will harm the foreign intelligence activities of the U.S., to intentionally reveal the identity of an agent whom one knows to be in or recently in certain covert roles with a U.S. intelligence agency, unless the United States has publicly acknowledged or revealed the relationship. [Wikipedia]
Dubious origin — The law was written, in part, as a response to several incidents where Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents or officers’ identities were revealed. Under then existing law, such disclosures were legal when they did not involve the release of classified information.
In 1975, CIA Athens station chief Richard Welch was assassinated by the Greek urban guerrilla group November 17. His identity had been revealed by a magazine called CounterSpy, edited by Timothy Butz.
As INTEL TODAY has explained, this link between the publication of Welch’s name by the CounterSpy magazine and his assassination is a piece of pure fiction which is unfortunately repeated to this day, even by former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Criticism — The law passed the House by a vote of 315–32, with all opposing votes coming from Democrats. The law passed the Senate 81–4, with the opponents being Democratic Senators Joseph Biden, Gary Hart, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Republican Senator Charles Mathias. [Wikipedia]
Biden had written an op-ed column in the Christian Science Monitor published on April 6, 1982 that criticized the proposed law as harmful to national security.
“In the last analysis, a free and inquiring press is the most reliable check the citizens of our nation have against wrongdoing and bad judgment in government, since government, like any individual, is often reluctant to call attention to the errors of its own ways.
It is therefore a mistake for the Congress to pursue legislation which hinders the press from performing this vital function, as it has in this case.”
Who is a “Covert Agent”?
For the purposes of this ACT: the term ‘covert agent’ means:
(A) a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the armed forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency— (i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and (ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States; or
(B) a United States citizen whose intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information, and— (i) who resides and acts outside the United States as an agent of, or informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency, or (ii) who is at the time of the disclosure acting as an agent of, or informant to, the foreign counterintelligence or foreign counterterrorism components of the Federal Bureau of
(C) an individual, other than a United States citizen, whose past or present intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information and who is a present or former agent of, or a present or former informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency.
The Mike D’Andrea Controversy
In 2017, Mike D’Andrea — a former Director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center — was appointed to head the CIA’s Iran Covert Operations.
While reporting the story, the New York Times ‘revealed’ the true identity of a man previously know as “CIA Roger”.
One could easily believe that such ‘outing’ of a CIA officer violates the “Intelligence Identities Protection Act”. One could be wrong.
The NYT story
“The C.I.A. declined to comment on Mr. D’Andrea’s role, saying it does not discuss the identities or work of clandestine officials.
The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because Mr. D’Andrea remains undercover, as do many senior officials based at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va.
Mr. Eatinger did not use his name. The New York Times is naming Mr. D’Andrea because his identity was previously published in news reports, and he is leading an important new administration initiative against Iran.” [NYT]
Accusation of “outing” a CIA clandestine official
Bre Payton — a staff writer at The Federalist — called for a criminal investigation to determine who illegally leaked the name of the CIA’s top spy overseeing U.S. efforts in Iran.
The Times‘s flimsy rationale doesn’t make sense. Just because the paper said he was in charge of handling drone strikes in a few other countries in a two-year-old article doesn’t justify outing him as the CIA’s top spy in a country that is now considered to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
As The Israel Project’s Omri Ceren pointed out on Twitter, the fact that the CIA officials who spoke to the Times did so under the condition of anonymity because D’Andrea is still undercover means that the newspaper article is indeed outing him. And his safety is now likely in jeopardy thanks to the Times.
In 2003, after the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame was revealed in an article by journalist Robert Novak, congressional Democrats demanded criminal investigations and eventual prison time for the individual responsible for leaking Plame’s name. No elected Democrats have yet called for a criminal investigation to determine who illegally leaked the name of the CIA’s top spy overseeing U.S. efforts in Iran.
The 1982 ACT is very clear on who is a ‘covert agent’. And D’Andrea does NOT fit the profile. He has been a bureaucrat since at least 2006! The Act require an active agent or an agent active in the last 5 years. [serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States]
Just to be sure, I wrote to Steven Aftergood who runs the excellent SECRECY NEWS Blog.
His answer was clear-cut. Aftergood comes to the same conclusion although trough a different argument.
“The Intelligence Identities Protection Act almost certainly does not apply in this case, because it applies to those who expose covert agents based on their own (authorized) access to classified information, and/or to those who are engaged in a “pattern of activities” designed to expose covert agents. Neither seems to fit this NY Times story.”
Steven Aftergood also suggested the following reading: “Intelligence Identities Protection Act” written by Jennifer K. Elsea — Legislative Attorney — published on April 10, 2013.
Valerie Plame was a covert agent at the time of the leak when she was outed as a CIA operative in a 2003 newspaper column by Robert Novak.
On October 23 2012, former CIA officer John Kiriakou pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
While explaining to a reporter that waterboarding was used to interrogate Al Qaeda prisoners, Kiriakou disclosed the identity of a fellow CIA officer. The reporter did not publish the name of the operative.
Signing of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act
President Reagan’s visits CIA Headquarters for the signing of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act — 6/23/1982
The New York Times Just Outed The CIA’s Top Iran Spy — The Federalist
Intelligence Identities Protection Act — Jennifer K. Elsea
CIA “Roger”: Mike D”Andrea and the “Intelligence Identities Protection Act”
United States — The “Intelligence Identities Protection Act” (June 23 1982)
On This Day — The Intelligence Identities Protection Act (June 23 1982)