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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BURR. Mr. President, I come to the Senate floor today for a reason I never dreamed would be needed. Recently there has been a series of articles published in the media that have described and in some cases provided extensive details about highly classified unilateral and joint intelligence operations, including covert actions. To describe these leaks as troubling and frustrating is by all standards an understatement. They are simply inexcusable criminal acts that must stop and must stop now. Our intelligence professionals, our allies and, most important, the American people deserve better than this.

I understand there are ongoing efforts in the House and Senate of which I am a part to address these leaks through legislation and that the Director of National Intelligence has implemented some administrative steps to investigate these leaks. I support those efforts. But I also believe special attention needs to be drawn to unauthorized disclosures relating to covert actions, so today I have introduced the Deterring Public Disclosure of Covert Action Act of 2012.

This act will ensure that those who disclose or talk about covert actions by the United States will no longer be eligible for Federal Government security clearance. It is novel. It is very simple. If you talk about covert actions you will have your clearance revoked and you will never get another one.

This is not a bill that any Member should ever have to introduce. Covert actions are by their very definition supposed to be kept quiet. Those who engage in them, those who support them, and those who work to get them authorized all know that. Yet those rules, those very laws that are supposed to protect classified information, are being disregarded with few repercussions, even though each one of those leaks undermines the hard work of our intelligence officers, puts lives at risk, and jeopardizes our relationship with overseas partners.

As I said in this Chamber last month, I strongly believe those leakers are violating the trust of the American people. Those who are given access to classified information, especially covert actions, are given the same responsibility we as Members have. As long as something is classified, you do not talk about it.

In other words, keep your mouth shut. Yet month after month, we see articles about covert actions that quote a wide range of U.S. officials, mostly anonymously, and often senior administration officials. While this act focuses on covert action, it in no way minimizes the importance of maintaining the secrecy of other types of classified information. Those who leak any classified information should no longer be trusted with our Nation's secrets. But I believe the damage that is being done to our covert action programs by these leaks deserves special attention today.

The act also ensures that any determination that an individual has leaked information about a covert action will be made only in accordance with the applicable law or regulation. In short, no one will lose his clearance without appropriate due process. I believe that is an important requirement, as losing clearance often means losing your livelihood.

Today I am taking one step to silence those who may have done irreparable harm by putting their own personal agendas above their colleagues and, most importantly, their country. We cannot afford to wait for more leaks or more compromised covert actions.

The bill I have introduced today may target only one part of the problem, but I believe it is an essential part of a solution. I urge my colleagues in the days and weeks to come to be supportive of this piece of legislation. I think it is a small thing to ask of those who are entrusted with our Nation's most important secrets, that they actually keep them secret or we take that ability away to be entrusted with that information.

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