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Intelligence chief forbids unauthorized talks with reporters

WASHINGTON – Employees of U.S. intelligence agencies have been barred from discussing any intelligence-related matter – even if it isn’t classified – with journalists without authorization, according to a new directive by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Intelligence agency employees who violate the policy could suffer career-ending losses of their security clearances or outright termination, and those who disclose classified information might face criminal prosecution, according to the directive, which Clapper signed March 20 but was made public only Monday by Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.

Under the order, only the director or deputy head of an intelligence agency, public affairs officials and those authorized by public affairs officials may have contact with journalists on intelligence-related matters.

The order doesn’t distinguish between classified and unclassified matters. It covers a range of intelligence-related information, including, it says, “intelligence sources, methods, activities and judgments.”

It includes a sweeping definition of who’s a journalist, which it asserts is “any person … engaged in the collection, production or dissemination to the public of information in any form related to topics of national security.”