How America’s Intelligence Community is Protecting Itself

While Americans focus on the Trump impeachment proceedings, Congress is considering adding a provision to current laws through the intelligence authorization bill that would dramatically expand the definition of covert agents.  As you will see in this posting, this could have a very significant impact on Washington's ability to protect CIA employees who may have been involved in crimes against humanity among other things.

Currently, the law that covers and protects America's intelligence officers is called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (IIPA) which falls under the National Security Act of 1947:

Under this Act, anyone that takes actions that identify a covert agent can be fined up to $25,000 and serve five years in prison or both.  Here is how covert agents were defined by the Act:

"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

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 Investigation; or

An 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." (my bold)

Please note the five year timeframe. 

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act has only been used twice; it was used to convict John Kiriakou, a former CIA counterintelligence officer, for blowing the whistle on the CIA's torture program even though he did not disclose the identity of any covert agent and Sharon Scranage, a secretary at the CIA who was having an affair with a Ghanian intelligence agent.  Ms. Scranage supplied her lover with the names of all CIA employees in the United States.

As I noted above, the CIA wants to dramatically expand the definition of covert agents, a change that would be included in the Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019 and 2020.  Here is a description of the expansion of the scope of protection for identities of covert agents which falls under Section 305:

"Section 305 amends the definition of ‘‘covert agent’’ in the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 3126(4)) to 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." (my bold)

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and member of the U.S Senate Select Committee on Intelligence appended the bill with the following concerns about the additional provisions to the IIPA:

"I am concerned about a new provision related to the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA). In 2010, I worked to pass legislation to increase the penalties for violations of the IIPA. This bill, however, expands the bill so that it applies indefinitely, including to individuals who have been in the United States for decades and have become senior management or have retired. I am not yet convinced this expansion is necessary and am concerned that it will be employed to avoid accountability. The CIA’s request that the Committee include this provision, which invoked ‘‘incidents related to past Agency programs, such as the RDI [Rendition, Detention and Interrogation] investigation,’’ underscores my concerns." (my bold)

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the expanded definition would imply increased withholding of historical intelligence records under the Freedom of Information Act, further protecting the American intelligence network's activities from much-needed scrutiny, particularly in light of these recent comments from former CIA Director Mike Pompeo:

So much for accountability when it comes to the American intelligence community and its "lying, cheating and stealing" ways.

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