Plugging the Leak of Secrets

New efforts to apply a 1917 law worry civil libertarians

Sooner or later, every Administration is stung or embarrassed by leaks of classified information to the press, denounces them as damaging to national security and vows to find those responsible. But supposing it does catch the leakers. What can it do to them? Fire or demote them, perhaps, but not fine or jail them--or so it has always been assumed. While the U.S. has specific laws governing dissemination of highly sensitive material (atomic secrets, identities of covert agents), there are no statutes comparable to Britain's Official Secrets Act, generally making all types of unauthorized disclosure of information a crime. Congress has...

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