Senate panel passes measure to crack down on intelligence leaks

The Senate Intelligence Committee passed legislation Tuesday that would take a number of steps to crack down on security leaks, including restrictions on how many intelligence community members can communicate with the media or enter into contracts with the media.

The provisions were included in the Senate’s intelligence authorization bill, which passed the committee 14-1 in a closed-door session yesterday.

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Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) vowed to include the tougher leak laws in the authorization bill, which was negotiated with House Intelligence Committee leaders.

“The culture of leaks has to change,” Feinstein said in a statement announcing the details of the bill.

Feinstein has become a key part of the fight over leaks this week, after she suggested Monday that some of the national security disclosures had come from the White House.

Feinstein backtracked from her comments Tuesday, saying that she didn’t know the source of the leaks, but presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney used her remarks to attack President Obama.

In addition to the restrictions on intelligence community members interacting with the media, the authorization bill would require that the executive branch notify Congress when making authorized disclosures on intelligence information, according to a fact sheet released by the committee.

The bill would also improve non-disclosure agreements and the penalties for not abiding by them. It would require the director of national intelligence to improve the process for investigating leaks and a report from the attorney general on how to improve the criminal process.

The House has passed its intelligence authorization bill, and the leak provisions are expected to be incorporated into that bill in conference committee. It’s not clear, however, when the Senate bill would go to the floor for a vote.