WikiLeaks II

The best source I’ve found of potential criminal charges in connection with WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic correspondence is from the Congressional Research Service.  Dated December 6, written by Legislative Attorney Jennifer K. Elsea, and 21 pages long, Criminal Prohibitions on the Publication of Classified Defense Information describes the leaked documents, communications between WikiLeaks and the U.S. Government, the criminal statutes protecting classified information, and other relevant legal issues.  It includes this summary:

This report identifies some criminal statutes that may apply, but notes that these have been used almost exclusively to prosecute individuals with access to classified information (and a corresponding obligation to protect it) who make it available to foreign agents, or to foreign agents who obtain classified information unlawfully while present in the United States. Leaks of classified information to the press have only rarely been punished as crimes, and we are aware of no case in which a publisher of information obtained through unauthorized disclosure by a government employee has been prosecuted for publishing it. There may be implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship. To the extent that the investigation implicates any foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas, any resulting prosecution may carry foreign policy implications related to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction and whether suspected persons may be extradited to the United States under applicable treaty provisions.

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  • Jesse R.

    There was an interesting interview on NPR's Fresh Air podcast with David Sanger of the NYT defending their decision to publish the cables. It's very interesting and discusses some of the legal aspects as well. http://www.npr.org/2010/12/08/131884250/nyt-repor