Omission Watch: Some Democrats Opposed 1982 Law At Center of Libby Probe

One angle the major media hasn't underlined in the current explosion of Plamegate coverage is the legislative origins of the scandal in the passage of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. As much as liberals like Al Franken love to say they oppose treason, the bill was opposed by a handful of liberals and Democrats. Some nuggets from the Washington Post coverage follow. President Reagan signed it, and some left-wingers protested from June 24, 1982:

The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the law as a "clearly unconstitutional infringement on the right of free speech." Morton H. Halperin, director of ACLU's Center for National Security Studies, said the organization would provide legal assistance to "those whose ability to speak or write is threatened by this legislation or effort to enforce it by the Justice Department."

The Post reported Senate passage from June 11, 1982:

The Senate, by 81 to 4, gave final congressional approval yesterday to a bill that will make it a crime to disclose the names of U.S. intelligence agents even if the information is obtained from public records.The measure, dubbed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, goes to President Reagan who has endorsed it heartily. It sailed through the House last week by a vote of 315 to 32. A dwindling number of opponents contended it was still unconstitutional. Among them was Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) who said his no vote was "perhaps the most difficult in my five years in this body." But he said he did not see how the conference report would hem in the sweeping language of the bill or prevent prosecutions for merely "negligent" conduct.Both Senate and House had abandoned a malicious intent standard for the "reason to believe" rule. "It now appears," Moynihan protested, "that we will soon have a law which, while making it easier to convict scoundrels, will chill the exercise of First Amendment rights."Also voting against the bill were [liberal] Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.), Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Gary Hart (D-Colo.).

The Post story on House passage came from June 4:

The vote on final passage was 315 to 32. All of the nays came from Democrats. Opponents of the measure such as Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.) protested that it was still unconstitutional....Edwards and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.) also refused to sign the report, but for different reasons. "No amount of tinkering, either with the statutory language itself or with the report, can render this bill constitutional," Edwards protested, "as long as it seeks to criminalize publication of unclassified information or information already in the public domain."

If anybody could dig up the actual House roll call, that might find more present-day Democrat office-holders like Biden who would have a hard time getting outraged about alleged White House insensitivity to this law.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis