Why Are Democrats Helping Trump Crack Down on Press Freedom?

Democrats are helping the CIA expand secrecy laws — and potentially prosecute reporters

Trevor Timm
Published in
4 min readJul 12, 2019
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

PPresident Donald Trump’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is attempting to vastly expand a controversial secrecy law that would shield it from accountability and even leave journalists vulnerable to prosecution for publishing the names of agents who engaged in illegal torture. And some Democrats appear totally on board.

Every year, Congress has to pass the Intelligence Authorization Act, which funds the intelligence agencies for the following fiscal year. (The House is expected to vote on its version as early as next week.) The CIA successfully pushed for a provision that would expand a little known law called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA).

Currently, the IIPA provides restrictions on disclosing the names of covert CIA officers who have served overseas sometime in the past five years. It is already controversial. When it passed in 1982, then-Senator Joe Biden warned that it could provide the government with ammunition to indict journalists who have reported on leaked information.

But now, the CIA wants to broaden its reach even further. As noted this week by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a journalism watchdog group, “if the changes advocated by the CIA are adopted, the law would indefinitely criminalize the disclosure of the identity of anyone with a classified relationship to an intelligence agency regardless of whether they have ever served abroad.” In other words, CIA officials could commit illegal acts at home or abroad and could classify the identities of who did it — and anyone who revealed such information, even decades later, would be subject to prosecution.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, who heads the House Intelligence Committee, reportedly inserted the provision into the Intelligence Authorization Act on behalf of the CIA. This has press freedom groups and transparency organizations incredibly worried — and for good reason.

When you take a good look at his record, Schiff has always favored the secrecy of…



Trevor Timm
Writer for

Trevor Timm is the executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation. His writing has appeared the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Intercept.