Protection of National Security Information
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
Pagination or Media Count:
Continued revelations involving alleged disclosures of classified information to the news media or to others who are not entitled to receive it have renewed Congresss interest with regard to the possible need for legislation to provide for criminal punishment for the leaks of classified information. Opponents of any such legislation express concern regarding the possible consequences to freedom of the press and other First Amendment values. The current laws for protecting classified information have been criticized as a patchwork of sometimes abstruse and antiquated provisions that are not consistent and do not cover all the information the government legitimately needs to protect. Certain information is protected regardless of whether it belongs to the government or is subject to normal classification. Information related to the national defense is protected even though no harm to the national security is intended or is likely to be caused through its disclosure. However, nonmilitary information with the potential to cause serious damage to the national security is only protected from willful disclosure with the requisite intent or knowledge regarding the potential harm. For example, under 50 U.S.C. 783, the communication of classified information by a government employee is expressly punishable only if the discloser knows or has reason to believe the recipient is an agent or representative of a foreign government, but not, for example, if the recipient is an agent of an international terrorist organization. This report describes the current state of the law with regard to the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, including criminal and civil penalties that can be imposed on violators, as well as some of the disciplinary actions and administrative procedures available to federal agencies with respect to their employees, as such measures have been addressed by federal courts.
- Information Science
- Civil Defense
- Military Intelligence