A coalition of over two dozen organizations, lead by Open the Government and including the National Coalition Against Censorship, is calling for Congressional leaders to remove a provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 that would dramatically expand the existing federal crime of disclosing the identity of intelligence operatives. The provision, requested by the Central Intelligence Agency, would expand the definition of “covert agent” in such a way that would unreasonably criminalize disclosure of current and retired operatives’ identities.

As Open the Government explains, current law prohibits disclosing the identities of intelligence employees who serve or have served abroad within the previous five-year period. But the CIA’s proposal would expand the provision, making it a crime to disclose the identity of agents regardless of whether they ever served overseas, and apply this broad prohibition indefinitely.

The provision, which is Section 305 in H.R. 3494 and S. 1589 (S. 1589 has also been added to S. 1790, the National Defense Authorization Act), would permit the prosecution of reporters or any other person who discloses the identity of a current or retired operative, regardless of whether the disclosure is necessary to reveal government misconduct or threats to the intelligence agencies themselves.

This provision would impede congressional oversight of the intelligence community, weaken accountability, hinder public access to information and create a major chilling effect on journalists and public interest organizations.

Read the full letter here or below.