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Clinton vetoes bill containing 'secrets' disclosure punishment

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton vetoed a bill Saturday that included a provision making it a felony to leak government secrets, saying the measure was "overbroad and may unnecessarily chill legitimate activities that are at the heart of a democracy."

The measure, which was part of the larger Intelligence authorization bill, would have extended already existing penalties for leaking national defense or other kinds of information that might be harmful to national security. The measure would have imposed a maximum prison term of three years and a maximum fine of $10,000 for such unauthorized leaks.

Clinton said the bill needed a provision to protect "irreplaceable intelligence sources."

According to the president, "those who disclose classified information inappropriately thus commit a gross break of the public trust and may recklessly put our national security at risk." But, the president said, "we must never forget that the free flow of information is essential to a democratic society."

A number of the nation's largest news organizations -- including CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times -- had urged the president to veto the measure.

Several unfinished spending bills await Congress when it reconvenes later this month. Because of the veto, Congress must now pass a new intelligence authorization bill.

In his veto message, the president urged Congress "as soon as possible to pursue a more narrowly drawn provision" for stemming unauthorized leaks of classified information.


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Saturday, November 4, 2000


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