The Ticket

Spy chief Clapper wields lie detector in war on leaks

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on a recent visit to Congress (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Employees at many of America's top intelligence gathering and analysis agencies will have to convince a lie detector that they haven't spilled any of the nation's secrets to the media. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced the plan Monday to plug up leaks of sensitive information.

With a Department of Justice investigation under way into recent revelations about cyberwarfare against Iran and the publication of details of the U.S.'s drone program, Clapper ordered "that a question related to unauthorized disclosure of classified information be added to the counterintelligence polygraph used by all intelligence agencies that administer the examination."

In plain English, that means that employees at the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy, the FBI, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency will be quizzed about whether they have overshared with the press. And officials in key positions could find themselves subject to more frequent polygraph tests. Clapper also asked the Intelligence Community inspector general to lead leak investigations when the Department of Justice declines to prosecute the officials involved.

And Clapper opened a review of existing policies governing when employees of those agencies must report "non-incidental contact" with journalists, with an eye on overhauling those guidelines if they are found to be inconsistent—or even nonexistent, an aide told Yahoo News.

"These efforts will reinforce our professional values by sending a strong message that intelligence personnel always have, and always will, hold ourselves to the highest standard of professionalism," Clapper said in a statement.

Some Republican lawmakers, notably Sen. John McCain, have accused the Obama administration of disclosing national security information to the press to polish Obama's image on national security ahead of the election. The president has called such allegations "offensive" and said he has a "zero tolerance" approach to leaks.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican, said Clapper's announcement was "a good first step" toward deterring and detecting leaks.

"The leaking of classified national security information is intolerable at any level, but the parade of recent leaks requires action. We must break this culture of unauthorized disclosures," Rogers said in a statement.

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