Rep. Poliquin Introduces Bill to Hold Top Officials Accountable for Mishandling Classified Information
WASHINGTON – Today, Maine’s 2nd District Congressman, Bruce Poliquin, introduced the Hold Top Officials Accountable Act, a bill that makes an important change in the law to ensure that top officials that have access to classified information—including Members of Congress, Senators, and presidentially appointed officials—are held accountable for negligence and mishandling of that classified information. The legislation would also increase the penalty for those that are found guilty of these serious infractions. Congressman Poliquin released the following statement:
“Our Nation’s leaders should be held to a high standard—it is as simple as that,” said Congressman Poliquin. “Like the majority of Americans, I’m very concerned about recent events that have exposed instances of extremely careless mishandling of very sensitive, highly classified information. This type of behavior by any of our Nation’s top officials demonstrates to the American public that those serving in high office are not being held accountable for their actions, especially for such blatant carelessness that puts our national security at risk.
“Today, I’m proud to introduce a common sense bill that will revise the law to make sure that top officials—including Members of Congress, Senators and presidential appointees—will be held accountable if they mishandle classified information by either intentionally or grossly negligently sharing that information. It will also increase the penalty for these serious infractions.
“If the American People are entrusting our officials with top secret information, then they should be held accountable to keep that information safe, for the sake of our Nation’s security.
“The American People deserve leaders in Washington that are going to take our national security laws seriously. My change in the law will remind all of us the importance of the responsibilities we assume when we take the oath of office. This is a significant, unique and needed change to our current law.”
The Hold Top Officials Accountable Act, H.R. 5800, expands and clarifies existing law to increase penalties for highly placed officials who intentionally or grossly negligently mishandle classified information. Highly placed officials include Members of Congress, Senators, and presidentially appointed officials. The bill increases the penalty for such crimes by mandating a minimum sentence of two years in jail for those found guilty. Mishandling classified information includes knowingly disclosing classified information to unauthorized people, grossly negligently placing classified information on unsecured servers and electronic devices, and grossly negligently making classified information more potentially available to unauthorized people. Currently, the law sets no mandatory minimum sentencing for these infractions and also gives prosecutors leeway because of outdated language. This bill makes it explicitly clear that sharing classified information on unprotected electric devices and servers is unlawful.
Click HERE to see a PDF version of the bill.