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House bill seeks to stem classified leaks

House bill seeks to stem classified leaks
A protester stands at a House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on potential changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill. (Shawn Thew / European Pressphoto Agency)

WASHINGTON -- A House bill to authorize spending on intelligence contains a provision designed to help stem further leaks of classified information by Americans with security clearances.

The provision, by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), would require the director of national intelligence to undertake, “on an urgent basis, a study to determine whether our insider threat and security clearance processes are sufficient to detect both those looking to engage in traditional espionage and those seeking to make sensitive information public,” said Meg Fraser, his spokeswoman.

The study also would seek to determine if "any legal barriers exist to detecting such threats in advance and what, if any, legislative remedies may be available."

The language and other provisions in the bill, including a $75-million increase for “insider threat detection," are in response to the flood of disclosures by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has given reporters thousands of digital documents describing once-secret surveillance programs.

Critics say the attempts to stop leaks confuse the role of whistle-blowers and others seeking to expose government abuses with the work of foreign spies.

“We need to ensure the continuous monitoring of those with security clearances, both for signs of espionage and for signs of public disclosures like what we saw with Edward Snowden,” said Rep.

C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee. “We need to guard against the insider threat.”

The bill passed the House intelligence committee with bipartisan support, officials said. The vote came on the same day it emerged that the Obama administration has ordered a government-wide review of the nearly 5 million people who hold security clearances.

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