Rep. Paul McCloskey (R-Calif.), speaking last night at the Law School Forum, challenged his audience to draw its own distinction between what kind of classified information should be disclosed to the public and what kind withheld for reasons of national security.
McCloskey asked the audience of 80 to vote on whether Rep. Michael J. Harrington (D-Mass.) should be censured by Congress for revealing classified Central Intelligence Agency information about U.S. involvement in the 1974 overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende.
The audience supported Harrington by a two-to-one margin and voted almost unanimously against a law that would make disclosure of classified information a criminal offense.
McCloskey did not say how he would vote on the Harrington case, adding that the matter is "not susceptible to precise answers." He said there are dangers both in too much and too little public disclosure of information, and called for a "case-by-case examination" of such issues when they come up.
Both McCloskey and his audience disagreed with a proposal by Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.) that the CIA disclose all its sources, methods and operatives on the grounds that the executive branch has no constitutional right to withhold information from Congress.
McCloskey said there is a great disparity between his views and those of most Republicans, and that he is considering retiring from politics or switching to the Democratic Party.