Issa latest example in long history of using Congressional Record to introduce confidential information, ethics expert says

News reports indicate that Rep. Darrell Issa (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, disclosed confidential information from a Justice Department wiretap application into the Congressional Record last week.


“While the executive branch sometimes seeks civil or criminal penalties against those who reveal confidential information, it cannot seek such penalties against Issa because the speech or debate clause of the constitution protects members of Congress when they expose sensitive information in the Congressional Record,” says Kathleen Clark, JD, government ethics expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

“This is just the latest example of a member of Congress intentionally revealing information that the executive branch wanted to keep secret, the latest skirmish in a longstanding struggle between the legislative and executive branches for the control of government information.”

In an article published last year in the University of Illinois Law Review (see link below), Clark provides a comprehensive history of Congressional disclosures of sensitive national security information, and discusses how speech or debate immunity immunizes members of Congress who make such disclosures.