from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 97
September 24, 2012

Secrecy News Blog:


Fifty years ago, the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) urged President John F. Kennedy to take "drastic action" against whoever had leaked classified intelligence information to a New York Times reporter. The Board also suggested that the CIA be empowered domestically to track down such leaks.

The PFIAB recommendations to President Kennedy were memorialized in an August 1, 1962 report that established a template for future efforts to combat leaks, up to the present day. The report stated:

The PFIAB recommendations were declassified as part of the JFK Assassination Records Collection, and were reprinted in a new history of PFIAB called "Privileged and Confidential" by the late Kenneth M. Absher, et al.

The recommendations were presented to President Kennedy at an August 1, 1962 meeting that was recorded and transcribed. Excerpts were published in "J.F.K. Turns to the C.I.A. to Plug a Leak" by Tim Weiner, New York Times, July 1, 2007:

The news story containing classified intelligence information that prompted the PFIAB's fury was "Soviet Missiles Protected in 'Hardened' Positions" by Hanson W. Baldwin, New York Times, July 26, 1962.

It is not known whether or to what extent the PFIAB recommendations were acted upon, and there is no indication that the source of the Times story was ever identified.

Needless to say, the prevalence of leaks was not discernibly affected by any actions to deter them that were taken by the Kennedy Administration or its successors. Still, the 1962 PFIAB recommendations defined options for combating leaks of classified information that would be reiterated time and again in the years to come.

"All contacts with any element of the news media in which classified National Security Council matters or classified intelligence information are discussed will require the advance approval of a senior official," ordered President Reagan in his 1982 directive NSDD-19, echoing the third PFIAB recommendation above.

The pending anti-leak legislation that was introduced lately by the Senate Intelligence Committee also bears a family resemblance to the PFIAB menu of recommended actions.

In fact, the congressional intelligence committees appear to have internalized a PFIAB-like perspective to a surprising extent, and they have prioritized executive branch security interests above other considerations. While fiercely opposing leaks of classified information, the intelligence committees have had nothing to say about the subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen or the ill-conceived prosecution of former NSA official Thomas Drake or similar actions which threaten values other than security, narrowly construed.


New products of the Congressional Research Service which Congress has not made publicly available include the following.

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2012, updated September 19, 2012:

Airport Body Scanners: The Role of Advanced Imaging Technology in Airline Passenger Screening, September 20, 2012:

National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications: A Summary of Executive Order 13618, September 19, 2012:

DHS Headquarters Consolidation Project: Issues for Congress, September 21, 2012:

Clean Water Act and Pollutant Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), September 21, 2012:

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Welfare Waivers, September 21, 2012:

U.S. Implementation of the Basel Capital Regulatory Framework, September 20, 2012:

Federal Tax Benefits for Manufacturing: Current Law, Legislative Proposals, and Issues for the 112th Congress, September 20, 2012:

Tax Gap, Tax Compliance, and Proposed Legislation in the 112th Congress, September 20, 2012:

Medigap: A Primer, September 19, 2012:

Laws Affecting the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), September 19, 2012:

Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables, updated September 20, 2012:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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