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August 10, 2006 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Recipients of "Leaks" May Be Prosecuted, Court Rules In a momentous expansion of the government's authority to regulate public disclosure of national security information, a federal court ruled that even private citizens who do not hold security clearances can be prosecuted for unauthorized receipt and disclosure of classified information. The ruling by Judge T.S. Ellis, III, denied a motion to dismiss the case of two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who were charged under the Espionage Act with illegally receiving and transmitting classified information. The decision is a major interpretation of the Espionage Act with implications that extend far beyond this particular case. The Judge ruled that any First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of speech involving national defense information can be superseded by national security considerations.
posted by Unregistered User (28 comments total)
 
This doesn't seem particularly unreasonable to me - what's the point of classifying information if someone who knows they aren't allowed to have it can spread it around anyway?

What seems like it's missing though, from the comment is any sense of whether a piece of information was legitimately classified in the first place. What stops a government official from declaring any random bit of somewhat embarassing information classified? If no one without clearance can talk about it, how does the fact that it's classified at all get appealed?
posted by jacquilynne at 11:27 AM on August 10, 2006


fuck.
posted by Satapher at 11:27 AM on August 10, 2006


So that "clear and present danger” thing - not so much anymore huh? (although United States v. Morison in 1985 poked that in the ass too). The state secrets privilege just ain’t strong enough, eh? It’s unfortunate I have to live in interesting times (usually it’s the shitheads who make them so). Ah, well, John Peter Zenger’s been in the ground a long time. But really, they’re too late. Teh internets has changed traditonal reporting - but I wonder what a ruling would be on reiteration of an already released piece of classified information?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:29 AM on August 10, 2006


Finally, those fact-huggers in Al Media will get the punishment they deserve.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:31 AM on August 10, 2006


Pardon my extreme ignorance here, but is this the kind of ruling that will eventually see the Supreme Court? Can we safely assume that the final word on this has not been spoken yet?
posted by Sandor Clegane at 11:33 AM on August 10, 2006


What happens when people make shit up and turn out to be right? Or people who grab A and B and figure out C..when C is classified?

If the classified info is SO important as to lock someone up, what will be the magical method for them to get a fair trial?


Things like this would be illegal
http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/6315/pearl.html

Or even discussing what a president has in thier historical papers (covered under a blanket classification)

I DO look forard to the legal-he said she saids about how the only way to keep the spy trial going was to make this ruling.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:38 AM on August 10, 2006


Nothing to see here. This is not a final judgement on anything, just a motion to dismiss, a bit of pre-trial maneuvering to get the case thrown out early on.

All it means is that the judge will decide the issue at trial, which hasn't even started yet. It's a bit premature for all of the spooky "unprecedented" and "expansive" and "far-reaching implications" type language the left likes to use whenever parsing a national security case.

The judge neatly summarized the remaining issues:

"The government must... prove that the person alleged to have violated these provisions knew the [restricted] nature of the information, knew that the person with whom they were communicating was not entitled to the information, and knew that such communication was illegal, but proceeded nonetheless."

"Finally, with respect only to intangible information [as opposed to documents], the government must prove that the defendant had a reason to believe that the disclosure of the information could harm the United States or aid a foreign nation...."


I think that when you compare this to the lead--"In a momentous expansion of the government's authority to regulate public disclosure of national security information, a federal court ruled that even private citizens who do not hold security clearances can be prosecuted for unauthorized receipt and disclosure of classified information"--you can see that it's not quite the doom and gloom it is presented to be.
posted by Brian James at 11:40 AM on August 10, 2006


All you are doing those is shitting all over the site with your daily crap.
posted by dios at 11:35 AM PST


Normally Dios spends time in theads like this spouting leagl-ese. Why the departure from your normal "let me explain this from a legal position"?

Lets see you step up to the challenge of explaining without this ruling, the case would have been thrown out?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:42 AM on August 10, 2006


This would mean that the government could prosecute journalists for reporting facts it doesn't want known if it classifies those facts as secret. The journalists who reported on the NSA wiretapping, secret prisons, etc. could be jailed. Not sure if this is the kind of society Americans want to live in.
posted by Dasein at 11:44 AM on August 10, 2006


or you could just wait for his comment to be deleted.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 11:45 AM on August 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


“...you can see that it's not quite the doom and gloom it is presented to be.” - posted by Brian James

I’m of two opinions on this - in part, I agree it’s not the end of the world, but the direction of thinking - as a trend - can be dangerous. There are already protections for classified information, the release of classified information and the dangerous use of classified information (such as delivery to an enemy). What is somewhat undefined (in this particular opinion) is harm. Clearly revealing troop movements creates a clear and present danger (why Geraldo is still walking around I have no idea) but the article brings up a good point - what about ‘harmful’ documents that are relevent to civic debate? Goes back to J.P. Zenger I think.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:06 PM on August 10, 2006


“...you can see that it's not quite the doom and gloom it is presented to be.” - posted by Brian James

I’m of two opinions on this - in part, I agree it’s not the end of the world, but the direction of thinking - as a trend - can be dangerous. There are already protections for classified information, the release of classified information and the dangerous use of classified information (such as delivery to an enemy). What is somewhat undefined (in this particular opinion) is harm. Clearly revealing troop movements creates a clear and present danger (why Geraldo is still walking around I have no idea) but the article brings up a good point - what about ‘harmful’ documents that are relevent to civic debate? Goes back to J.P. Zenger I think.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:06 PM on August 10, 2006


Since this is an initial ruling in a district court, I'd expect it to be appealed. Here's an AP story about the descision; it notes that Ellis said the case was moving into "new, uncharted waters," which would seem to indicate that a higher court will eventually rule on the matter (assuming that AIPAC will appeal, which seems likely to me).
posted by whir at 2:05 PM on August 10, 2006


This doesn't seem particularly unreasonable to me - what's the point of classifying information if someone who knows they aren't allowed to have it can spread it around anyway?

So that people who are allowed to have it can't spread it around?

In this case though, the leaks were not to reporters, but rather a foreign government.
posted by delmoi at 2:09 PM on August 10, 2006


Here's the trick -- it's a lovely way to send anyone to jail.

1) Call them up.

2) Tell them classified information.

3) Call the police, tell them that you have clear evidence that they have classified information.

Of course, they might prosecute you for leaking. Given this administration, if you were calling a democrat, they'd give you a raise.

If played honestly, it means that reporting on anonymous sources could very well land you in jail if the government decided that the information was classified.

This one better get shot down, because the bill of rights means fuck all against it.
posted by eriko at 2:12 PM on August 10, 2006



1) Call them up.

2) Tell them classified information.

3) Call the police, tell them that you have clear evidence that they have classified information.


Wait, you forgot 2.5 - Go directly to jail for up to 10 years per count of disclosing classified information - more if you knowingly committed espionage.

And why shouldn't the recipients be prosecuted? We're not talking about Whistleblowers here, we're talking about a handful of policy wonks passing classified state secrets (which they knowing got illegally from a crooked Defense Department employee who has been convicted on several counts of espionage) with regarding our position towards Iran back to the Mossad.

Why is anyone defending that? It's a no-brainer...
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 2:36 PM on August 10, 2006


eriko: wtf are you talking about? No one is talking about putting people in jail for Having state secrets, they're talking about putting people in jail for passing on state secrets when it can be proven they knew they were classified.
posted by delmoi at 2:38 PM on August 10, 2006


Charges Against Larry Franklin:

Charge: Communicating classified US national defense information to persons not entitled to receive that information; that this information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation

* Count 1: Conspiracy to communicate national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it
* Count 2-4: Communication of national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it
* Count 5: Communication of classified information to persons not entitled to receive it
* Count 6: Conspiracy to communicate classified information to agent and representative of foreign government without specific authorization

posted by Fidel Cashflow at 2:41 PM on August 10, 2006


Should this come to pass, the sin of Envy will dig up the corpse of Richard Nixon and reanimate it in an unholy ritual so that it may join its brothers within his body.
posted by Saydur at 3:06 PM on August 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


1) Call them up.
2) Tell them classified information.
3) Call the police, tell them that you have clear evidence that they have classified information.

Wait, you forgot 2.5 - Go directly to jail for up to 10 years per count of disclosing classified information - more if you knowingly committed espionage.


I don't think it's us who has forgotten 2.5, it's the folks in power who selectively prosecute. While the current bunch of boobs has admittedly been pretty blatant with it I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an administration in the last 60 years that hasn't leaked information to their advantage.
posted by phearlez at 3:26 PM on August 10, 2006


Does that mean that Bob "Douchebag for Liberty" Novak will be spending time in PMITA prison? (yeah, right)
posted by clevershark at 3:33 PM on August 10, 2006


Fidel Cashflow writes "Wait, you forgot 2.5 - Go directly to jail for up to 10 years per count of disclosing classified information - more if you knowingly committed espionage."

That can be gotten around fairly easily with a good smear campaign, as the Plame case has shown. It's easy to dodge charges when you basically own the DoJ. Over 3 years later there still hasn't been anyone charged with leaking the information.
posted by clevershark at 3:35 PM on August 10, 2006


Greenwald: AIPAC ruling a blow to press freedom
posted by homunculus at 3:42 PM on August 10, 2006


Recipients of leaks - that would be the media, right? So in order to operate in complete darkness, the administration moves to blinker and gag the few people who can inform the public.
posted by Cranberry at 3:47 PM on August 10, 2006


That can be gotten around fairly easily with a good smear campaign, as the Plame case has shown.

Exactly. You tell the AG to prosecute the guy who got the secrets, but pardon or forget to prosecute the person who gave them.

This is a naked attack on whistleblowers, while protecting leaks used to attack opponents. Since they haven't been able to get Fox a federal shield law for reporters, they'll just prosecute anyone who goes to press with embarrasing secret info.
posted by eriko at 3:48 PM on August 10, 2006


This is a naked attack on whistleblowers, while protecting leaks used to attack opponents

Really? Who exactly is the whistleblower in this case again?
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 5:13 PM on August 10, 2006


Whatever. The US is fucked beyond repair anyway.
posted by oncogenesis at 5:15 PM on August 10, 2006


Loose ears serve years.
posted by jimfl at 6:41 PM on August 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


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