Advancing a Free Society

Espionage Act Amendments

Monday, December 6, 2010

Senators Joseph Lieberman, John Ensign, and Scott Brown have introduced a bill to amend the Espionage Act in order to facilitate the prosecution of folks like Wikileaks. The bill is confusingly called the SHIELD Act, though it is anything but a media shield law–a term usually used to refer to laws that protect members of the media from having to testify as to the identities of their sources. As I read it, it would dramatically expand the scope of 18 U.S.C. 798, which is now a relatively targeted provision criminalizing the disclosure or publication of cryptographic systems and communications intelligence. As amended by the bill, the statute would read in relevant part:

Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government or transnational threat to the detriment of the United States any classified information . . . concerning the human intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government [or] concerning the identity of a classified source or informant of an element of the intelligence community of the United States . . . [s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

I am not entirely unsympathetic to the idea of passing a criminal leaks bill.

Continue reading Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare...

(photo credit: Ben Bryant)