Protection of National Security Information [June 30, 2006]   [open pdf - 110KB]

"Recent cases involving alleged disclosures of classified information to the news media or others who are not entitled to receive it have renewed Congress's interest with regard to the possible need for legislation to provide for criminal punishment for the 'leaks' of classified information. The Espionage Act of 1917 and other statutes and regulations provide a web of authorities for the protection of various types of sensitive information, but some have expressed concern that gaps in these laws may make prosecution of some disclosures impossible. The 106th Congress passed a measure to criminalize leaks, but President Clinton vetoed it. The 108th Congress reconsidered the same provision, but instead passed a requirement for the relevant agencies to review the need for such a proscription. The Department of Justice in turn reported that existing statutes and regulations are sufficient to prosecute disclosures of information that might harm the national security. This report provides background with respect to previous legislative efforts to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure of classified information; describes the current state of the laws that potentially apply, including criminal and civil penalties that can be imposed on violators; and some of the disciplinary actions and administrative procedures available to the agencies of federal government that have been addressed by federal courts. Finally, the report considers the possible First Amendment implications of applying the Espionage Act to prosecute newspapers for publishing classified national defense information."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL33502
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/main/home.jsp
Media Type:
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