Statement by the President: Veto of the "Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001" (11/4/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

                           (Chappaqua, New York)

For Immediate Release                            November 4, 2000

                        STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT


     Today, I am disapproving H.R. 4392, the "Intelligence Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2001," because of one badly flawed provision that would
have made a felony of unauthorized disclosures of classified information.
Although well inten-tioned, that provision is overbroad and may
unnecessarily chill legitimate activities that are at the heart of a

     I agree that unauthorized disclosures can be extraordinarily harmful
to United States national security interests and that far too many such
disclosures occur.  I have been particularly concerned about their
potential effects on the sometimes irreplaceable intelligence sources and
methods on which we rely to acquire accurate and timely information I need
in order to make the most appropriate decisions on matters of national
security.  Unauthorized disclosures damage our intel-ligence relationships
abroad, compromise intelligence gathering, jeopardize lives, and increase
the threat of terrorism.  As Justice Stewart stated in the Pentagon Papers
case, "it is elementary that the successful conduct of international
diplomacy and the maintenance of an effective national defense require both
confidentiality and secrecy.  Other nations can hardly deal with this
Nation in an atmosphere of mutual trust unless they can be assured that
their confidences will be kept . . . and the development of considered and
intelligent international policies would be impossible if those charged
with their formulation could not communicate with each other freely."
Those who disclose classified information inappropriately thus commit a
gross breach of the public trust and may recklessly put our national
security at risk.  To the extent that existing sanctions have proven
insufficient to address and deter unauthorized dis-closures, they should be
strengthened.  What is in dispute is not the gravity of the problem, but
the best way to respond to it.

     In addressing this issue, we must never forget that the free flow of
information is essential to a democratic society.   Justice Stewart also
wrote in the Pentagon Papers case that "the only effective restraint upon
executive policy in the areas of national defense and international affairs
may lie in an enlightened citizenry -- in an informed and critical public
opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government."

     Justice Brandeis reminded us that "those who won our independence
believed . . . that public discussion is a political duty; and that this
should be a fundamental principle of the American government."  His words
caution that we must always tread carefully when considering measures that
may limit public discussion -- even when those measures are intended to
achieve laudable, indeed necessary, goals.

     As President, therefore, it is my obligation to protect not only our
Government?s vital information from improper disclosure, but also to
protect the rights of citizens to receive the information necessary for
democracy to work.  Furthering these two goals requires a careful
balancing, which must be assessed
in light of our system of classifying information over a range of
categories.  This legislation does not achieve the proper balance.  For
example, there is a serious risk that this legis-lation would tend to have
a chilling effect on those who engage in legitimate activities.  A desire
to avoid the risk that their good faith choice of words -- their exercise
of judgment -- could become the subject of a criminal referral for
prosecution might discourage Government officials from engaging even in
appropriate public discussion, press briefings, or other legitimate
official activities.  Similarly, the legislation may unduly restrain the
ability of former Government officials to teach, write, or engage in any
activity aimed at building public understanding of complex issues.
Incurring such risks is unnecessary and inappropriate in a society built on
freedom of expression and the consent of the governed and is particularly
inadvisable in a context in which the range of classified materials is so
extensive.  In such circumstances, this criminal provision would, in my
view, create an undue chilling effect.

     The problem is compounded because this provision was passed without
benefit of public hearings -- a particular concern given that it is the
public that this law seeks ultimately to protect.  The Administration
shares the process burden since its delibera-tions lacked the thoroughness
this provision warranted, which in turn led to a failure to apprise the
Congress of the concerns I am expressing today.

     I deeply appreciate the sincere efforts of Members of Congress to
address the problem of unauthorized disclosures and I fully share their
commitment.  When the Congress returns, I encourage it to send me this bill
with this provision deleted and I encourage the Congress as soon as
possible to pursue a more narrowly drawn provision tested in public
hearings so that those they represent can also be heard on this important

     Since the adjournment of the Congress has prevented my return of H.R.
4392 within the meaning of Article I, section 7, clause 2 of the
Constitution, my withholding of approval from the bill precludes its
becoming law.  The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655 (1929).  In addition to
withholding my signature and thereby invoking my constitutional power to
"pocket veto" bills during an adjournment of the Congress, to avoid
litigation, I am also sending H.R. 4392 to the House of Representatives
with my objections, to leave no possible doubt that I have vetoed the

                                   WILLIAM J. CLINTON

    November 4, 2000.

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