U.S. diplomats seek changes to insider trading rule

By Matthew Lee

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- American diplomats are asking to be exempted from parts of a law that bans members of Congress, the president and thousands of other federal workers from profiting from nonpublic information learned on the job.

The union that represents the U.S. Foreign Service said last Friday that it has no issue with the intent of the law but wants waivers for its members from requirements that personal financial disclosure statements and stock market trades be posted online.

It said making such information so easily available could put diplomats serving overseas at greater risk of kidnapping and make them more attractive targets for hostile foreign intelligence services seeking to recruit spies or obtain classified information.

"Publicly posting a vast database of personal information of Foreign Service personnel endangers both individuals and American national security," it said.

The American Foreign Service Association said it has "deep concerns" about the reporting provisions in the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK, Act that "create national security, operational and personal risks for federal employees in general but uniquely so for Foreign Service personnel who serve overseas as the frontline of our diplomatic service."

"Foreign Service personnel often serve in posts where kidnapping for ransom is a real and growing danger," it said. "Making personal financial information publicly available provides criminal organizations information that makes it easier to target members of the Foreign Service and their families."

In addition, the association noted that "foreign governments and potentially hostile intelligence agencies are actively building databases on American government employees and national security personnel" who might be sources of information.

"AFSA is deeply concerned that the information required to be made public under the STOCK Act would be used by foreign governments and intelligence agencies as a resource against American personnel and our allies overseas," it said.

The association said it is seeking amendments to the law to remedy the matter.

The STOCK Act requires that public reports of new transactions exceeding $1,000 be posted online either 30 days after the person was notified of a transaction in his or her account, or 45 days after the transaction.

Published: Tue, Jul 17, 2012