New polygraph question to deter intel leaks

Thursday - 6/28/2012, 3:21pm EDT

John Mahoney, Partner, Tully Rinckey Law Firm

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By Esther Carey
Special to Federal News Radio

Intelligence agency employees will face a new question on the polygraph test they must take periodically. Officials did not release the exact wording, but the question addresses the disclosure of classified information to members of the media.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced the change Monday as part of an effort to decrease leaks of sensitive security information. Various governmental agencies use polygraph tests as tools during hiring. Intelligence agency employees must also take the lie detector every seven years in order to renew their security clearance.

If federal employees refuse to take a polygraph or lie when asked about their conduct, they could lose their job and/or face jail time, said John Mahoney, a partner at Tully Rinckey Law Firm during an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.

Sharing classified information without authorization is a black-and-white matter, said Mahoney, who is chairman of the firm's federal labor and employment law practice. "Employees do not have the authority to disregard the classification level of information and choose to release it. If they believe something is wrongly classified, they should discuss that with their agency rather than leaking it."

Clapper also called for agencies to examine how intelligence officials' interaction with the media is monitored. Agencies can run into potential problems with employees' first amendment rights to freedom of speech in this area, Mahoney said. At the same time, federal employees must remain within the rules of their job when they speak to the media.

Mahoney encouraged employees to ask permission from their agency rather than acting on their own authority in communicating with the media.

Clapper's measures are "laudable" but did not go far enough, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at a () press conference on Tuesday.

"All he's saying is that people will have additional polygraphs" McCain said. "The fact is we need to find out how this happened, and who did it."

Esther Carey is an intern at Federal News Radio.

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