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U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Forbids Employees from Talking to Media

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Forbids Employees from Talking to Media

A leaked memo from the country’s top intelligence director informs the government’s intel employees that they are forbidden to talk to the media, a new report claims.

Still stung by the intelligence leaks made public by Edward Snowden, the memo issued in March by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper warned employees that talking to the press could be a fireable offense.

The memo tells intelligence community employees that they “must obtain authorization for contacts with the media on covered matters through the office responsible for public affairs… and must also report to that office unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters.”

“No substantive information should be provided to the media regarding covered matters in the case of unplanned or unintentional contacts,” the memo adds.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a senior intelligence official said that the “new policy represents the intelligence agencies’ effort to pre-empt legislation and instead police themselves.”

However, not everyone thinks this is a good policy.

Intelligence blogger Steven Aftergood noted that this policy is “likely to be effective in reducing the quality, independence and critical content of intelligence-related information that is available to the press and the public.”

Reuters’s Jack Shafer agreed, calling Clapper’s gag order a “stupid” move. Clapper’s directive, Shafer says, “tightens the circle” of insularity in the government and “feeds us all another helping of dung.”

The memo also offers a sweeping definition of just who employees are prohibited from talking to, saying a journalist is “any person… engaged in the collection, production or dissemination to the public of information in any form related to topics of national security.”

This is interesting in that it would cover bloggers as well as “real” journalists. This runs counter to the efforts of others in Washington, such as U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who wish to prevent bloggers and online writers from being considered journalists.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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