Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex). yesterday urged quick passage of legislation which would make unauthorized disclosure of the identities of CIA officials or agents a crime.
Bentsen said he was outraged by the new campaign being undertaken by former CIA officier Phillip Agee and colleagues to expose the names of CIA officers working abroad.
"I believe that anyone who so recklessly threatens the safety of our agents, as Mr. Agee does, should face the prospect of jail," Bentsen declared. "There can be no tolerance of the warped mentality of those who so dangerously prejudice our security."
In a prepared Senate floor speech, Bentsen said that a bill he first proposed in 1976 would "fill an inexcusable gap in current law."
The Bentsen bill would prohibit any past or present government official with access to classified information about CIA personnel from making unauthorized disclosures of such information about CIA personnel from making unauthorized disclosures of such information. Violators would be subject to a 10-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.
In an apparent effort to avoid freedom-of-the-press complications, the bill states that those who receive such unauthorized information cannot be prosecuted for conspiracy or as accomplices. Reporters and others still could be threatened with jail for refusing to reveal their government sources. A Bentsen spokesman maintained, however, this was more of a "theoretical" problem than a real one.