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Category Archives: Defense

Criminal Prohibitions on Leaks and Other Disclosures of Classified Defense Information

CRS Report – Criminal Prohibitions on Leaks and Other Disclosures of Classified Defense Information. Updated May 11, 2023 – “High-profile leaks and disclosures of protected government information have prompted frequent congressional interest in the criminal penalties for disclosing government secrets. In one recent case, a U.S. Air National Guardsman allegedly posted photographs on social media of documents that, according to media outlets, contained classified information about the Russia-Ukraine war and other international affairs. No single statute criminalizes all unauthorized disclosure of protected government information. Rather, the legal framework is based on a complex and often overlapping set of statutes or individual provisions within statutes, which are outlined in this report. Criminal prosecutions arising from unauthorized disclosures frequently focus on the Espionage Act, with specific charges varying based on certain factors. Successful prosecutions can result in punishments ranging from severe penalties and imprisonment for “classic spying” cases (when an individual collects information in an effort to provide aid to a foreign government) to less severe penalties for cases such as failing to report that protected information has been mishandled or lost. Historically, the United States has prosecuted under the Espionage Act and related statutes (1) individuals with access to classified information (and a corresponding obligation to protect it) who make it available to foreign agents and (2) foreign agents who obtain classified information unlawfully while present in the United States. The United States has also prosecuted individuals claiming an altruistic desire to expose protected information to the public based on their belief that the public good favors transparency into particular government activities. While not every prosecution against an alleged “whistleblower” has been successful, no individual has been acquitted on the grounds that the public interest in the leaked information was so significant as to justify an otherwise unlawful disclosure. Some have questioned whether the Espionage Act covers only initial disclosure of protected information or whether it also criminalizes the receipt and publication of that information by third parties, such as the press. The United States has never prosecuted a traditional news organization for receiving and publicizing leaked information, but it has extended its prosecution efforts to the individual not responsible for the initial disclosure. This report examines prosecutions of individuals who leak information to the press or policy organizations, such as lobbying groups and think tanks, as well as civil and criminal actions that have been brought against the recipients of leaked information. Prosecutions and legal proceedings arising out of leaks may also implicate First Amendment issues regarding freedom of speech and freedom of the press. At the same time, exposure of protected information may harm U.S. national security. Because these cases can raise First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of speech and freedom of the press, the constitutional framework relevant to prosecutions and other legal proceedings filed as a result of leaked classified information is also analyzed in this report, discussing ways Members of Congress who are evaluating criminal prohibitions on disclosures of protected information may seek to balance these competing interests within the constitutional framework. Lastly, this report provides a summary of previous legislative efforts to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and to address potential gaps or ambiguities in current statutes. Members may also consider past proposals for legislative changes to the Espionage Act.”

Navy Library at Washington Navy Yard

“The Navy Library at the Washington Navy Yard is our nation’s oldest federal library and houses a treasure vault of material, artifacts and rare books pertaining to the Washington Navy Yard and Naval Gun Factory civilian workforce1. The library is home to the most comprehensive collection of historical literature on the United States Navy. Over 13.5%… Continue Reading

The Hottest Online Game: Hunting for Classified Documents

WSJ – [free to read]  “The government secrets leaked on Discord have become fodder for users seeking fun and attention – “Videogame enthusiasts are scouring popular social-media platforms in the hope of finding classified U.S. military documents, turning the recent national-security crisis over leaked secrets into a global scavenger hunt. The competition pits online users… Continue Reading

How Death Outlives War: The Reverberating Impact of the Post-9/11 Wars on Human Health

Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs “War’s destruction of economies, public services, infrastructure, and the environment leads to deaths that occur long after bombs drop and grow in scale over time. This report reviews the latest research to examine the causal pathways that have led to an estimated 3.6-3.7 million indirect deaths in post-9/11… Continue Reading

The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model

Rand – The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model Why It Might Work and Options to Counter It = “Since its 2008 incursion into Georgia (if not before), there has been a remarkable evolution in Russia’s approach to propaganda. This new approach was on full display during the country’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula.… Continue Reading

Over 1,000 Companies Have Curtailed Operations in Russia—But Some Remain

Yale School of Management: “Since the invasion of Ukraine began, we have been tracking the responses of well over 1,200 companies, and counting. Over 1,000 companies have publicly announced they are voluntarily curtailing operations in Russia to some degree beyond the bare minimum legally required by international sanctions — but some companies have continued to operate… Continue Reading

Of Course This Is How the Intelligence Leak Happened

The Atlantic: “National-security leaks. Insurrections. Bank runs. Group chats are now the most powerful force on the internet…Group chats aren’t just good for triggering geopolitical crises—they’re also an effective means to start a bank run, as the world learned last month. The investor panic that led to the swift collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in… Continue Reading

After leak, Pentagon purges some users’ access to classified programs, launches security review

Breaking Defense: “As the Department of Justice continues investigating the breadth of the Discord leak, the Pentagon has launched a review of its security policies and procedures and is paring back just who has access to highly classified information, a Pentagon spokeswoman announced today. Late last week, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National… Continue Reading

Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community

ODNI, February 2023: Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community: “During the coming year, the United States and its allies will confront a complex and pivotal international security environment dominated by two critical strategic challenges that intersect with each other and existing trends to intensify their national security implications. First, great powers, rising regional… Continue Reading

DOJ said to have more evidence of possible Trump obstruction at Mar-a-Lago

Washington Post: “Justice Department and FBI investigators have amassed fresh evidence pointing to possible obstruction by former president Donald Trump in the investigation into top-secret documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home, according to people familiar with the matter. The additional evidence comes as investigators have used emails and text messages from a former Trump aide… Continue Reading

Declassified report suggests “Havana syndrome” could result from energy weapon

Salon: “A newly obtained declassified report prepared for the director of national intelligence by a panel of experts appears to show conclusively that “Havana syndrome” — a cluster of unexplained symptoms experienced by diplomats and government personnel abroad — is not a naturally occurring health problem. It does not reach any conclusions about who or… Continue Reading

Civilian Harm in Ukraine – Russia’s Assault on Daily Life in Ukraine

Bellingcat – map and dataset of 1,000+ incidents [includes incident’s date, location, description, sources, type of area affected, and type of weapon system]: “This map plots out and highlights incidents that have resulted in potential civilian impact or harm since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. The incidents detailed have been collected by Bellingcat researchers.… Continue Reading