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New measures approved to stem intelligence leaks

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The director of national intelligence on Monday instituted a series of new policies aimed at deterring leaks and detecting those who provide classified information to the news media without proper authorization.

Among other measures, James R. Clapper Jr., the Obama administration’s top intelligence official, approved an expansion of the use of polygraphs, permitting the lie-detector test to be authorized immediately for any intelligence community personnel who had access to classified information that is leaked.

He also directed the seven intelligence agencies that regularly administer counterintelligence polygraphs to their employees to add a question to the test that specifically addresses disclosures and media contacts. Previously, only the CIA has asked its employees about media contacts during polygraphing sessions.

The measures come as the Obama administration seeks to crack down on the leaking of classified information. This month, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. appointed two U.S. attorneys to lead investigations into the disclosure of such material.

Currently, whenever a leak of classified information occurs, the intelligence agency involved conducts a quick internal check to determine how many people were aware of the material and the potential harm to national security resulting from the leak. In some cases, intelligence officials refer the matter to the Justice Department for possible investigation by the FBI.

Hundreds of such referrals are made in a year, but few result in prosecutions.

Clapper, officials said, wants the intelligence community’s inspector general to conduct its own inquiry into cases in which the Justice Department decides it cannot bring criminal charges — in case administrative steps should be taken against those involved.

Shawn Turner, Clapper’s director of public affairs, said intelligence officials are also in the midst of a study on the practices followed by the 16 intelligence agencies on “non-incidental contacts” with the media.

Although the CIA and some other agencies have firm rules about reporting media contacts, it is not clear how they are followed. The results of this study may lead to some community-wide policy, Turner said.

In a statement Monday, Clapper said the effort to stem leaks was a “critically important issue, which has profound implications for current and future intelligence capabilities and our nation’s security.”

The House and Senate intelligence committees are working on legislation to tighten access to classified information and give the government the ability to take either criminal or administrative actions in such cases.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Monday that the two panels “are working in a bipartisan, bicameral way on legislative options to deter and detect leaks of classified information, and to hold leakers accountable.”

Whatever is agreed upon would probably be attached to the fiscal 2013 Intelligence Authorization Bill, which is before Congress.

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