WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration has drafted a new regulation requiring federal employees with access to classified information to sign a form promising not to make unauthorized disclosures of secrets, government lawyers said Thursday.
The regulation, which was drafted by the Information Security Oversight Office, will be published Wednesday in the Federal Register to update an existing security form that has been criticized as overly broad by some members of Congress, the lawyers said at a court hearing.
Government agencies began requiring employees in sensitive positions to sign the form earlier this year or lose security clearances. Signing it had previously been optional.
Air Force attorney Russell Carparelli told U.S. District Judge William Bryant that the new form is intended to clear up several ambiguities in the form that more than 1 million federal workers have signed since 1985.
But John Bodner Jr., an attorney representing Air Force whistle-blower A. Ernest Fitzgerald, said the new non-disclosure letter raises serious constitutional questions and will undermine a federal law designed to protect government whistle-blowers from losing their jobs.
Bodner appeared in court on a request by Fitzgerald for an extension of time to sign the form.
Fitzgerald, a civilian Air Force employee and well-known Pentagon whistle-blower, has been told he must sign the form or lose his security clearance.
Receives New Form
Fitzgerald had been given until last Monday to sign the old form. But Wednesday night he was given a copy of the new form and told he now has until Aug. 21 to sign it, Bodner said.
Bodner asked the judge to give Fitzgerald more time to decide whether to sign the form. The lawyer argued that the new regulations are not effective until at least 10 days after they are published in the Federal Register.
But the judge refused to grant an order, saying he lacked jurisdiction unless Fitzgerald filed a lawsuit.
Bryant retains jurisdiction over a consent decree that settled a 1976 suit Fitzgerald had filed against the Air Force as a result of his whistle-blowing activities.
Lawmakers Oppose Letter
Several members of Congress, including Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked the Reagan Administration last month to suspend use of the current security letter.
Aspin, in a letter to National Security Adviser Frank C. Carlucci, said it should be reviewed by Congress and that "some of the terms are broad and so vague that they may hinder federal employees who wish to disclose to the Congress appropriate information."
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee have begun formal inquiries into use of the form.
Justice Department attorney Vincent Garvey said the form was not mandatory in most government agencies until April. He said the new regulation addresses many of the questions that Fitzgerald posed about the old form.