The Obama Administration’s New Rules For ‘Unstructured Discussions’

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A new unclassified directive that is being implemented by the Obama Administration will censor government officials from talking about anything to do with “unauthorized leaks” even if it is in the national news and issues strict guidelines for having “unstructured discussions.”

The document originally reported on by the New York Times comes from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Entitled “ODNI Pre-Publication Review Of Information To Be Publicly Released” the document draws it’s authority from the National Security Act of 1947. In it it requires “pre-publication review of all information that is to be released publicly.” The directive covers — but is not limited to — presidential appointees as well as government employees and ODNI staff.

The document, which was signed by Chief Management Officer Mark W. Ewing, states: “Correct unclassified sourcing is critical in executing pre-publication approval. ODNI personnel must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information.”

Had this policy existed at the time of Edward Snowden’s  actions it would have meant that while the media would be able to discuss and report on his actions, ODNI staff would not have been able to even respond to the story because, the document continues:

“The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of the disclosure and cause further harm to national security. ODNI are not authorized to use anonymous sourcing.”

The document also lays down very strict codes that employees must follow when engaging in “unstructured   discussions” such as press conferences and Q&A sessions with reporters.

“ODNI personnel expected to engage in unstructured or free-form discussions about operations, business practices, or information related to the ODNI, the Intelligence Community or national security, must prepare an outline of the topics to be discussed or the agenda to be followed and to provide the Information Management Division anticipated question and ODNI responses,” the outline read.

The Public Affairs Office (PAO) of the ODNI also has a hand in the process with the document stating, “The PAO will ensure that the official information intended for public release is consistent with the official ODNI position or message.”

Reviews of documents that are not approved for publication are allowed, however, they are overseen by the Information Management Division which will “de-conflict any issues on responses from separate agencies and from within the ODNI and will provide a single and final response to the requester.”

After the furor caused by the editing of the Benghazi taking points that were issued to National Security Advisor Susan Rice, this could be seen as an attempt to contain and manage the flow of future information in a more supervised manner so as to ensure that future incidents will no longer be accompanied by so much contradictory evidence.

The penalties for contravening the new directive are stiff: “Failure to comply with this Instruction may reesult in the imposition of civil and administrative penalties, and may result in the loss of security clearances and accesses.”

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