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More USAF 'Crash Test Dummies'

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <post.nul>
Date: Tue, 08 Feb 2011 10:12:41 -0500
Archived: Tue, 08 Feb 2011 10:12:41 -0500
Subject: More USAF 'Crash Test Dummies'

Source: Secrecy News From The FAS Project On Government Secrecy


February 7th, 2011

Accessing Wikileaks Violates Espionage Act, USAF Says
by Steven Aftergood

Americans who have accessed the WikiLeaks web site may have
violated the Espionage Act, under an extreme interpretation of
the law advanced by Air Force officials last week.

Many government agencies have instructed their employees not to
download classified materials from the WikiLeaks web site onto
unclassified computer systems.  The government's position is
that although the material is in the public domain, its
classification status is unaffected.  Therefore, to preserve the
integrity of unclassified systems, the leaked classified
information should not be accessed on such systems.  If it is
accessed, it should be deleted.

But on February 3, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) at Wright-
Patterson Air Force Base issued startling new guidance stating
that the leaked documents are protected by the Espionage Act and
that accessing them under any circumstances is against the law,
not simply a violation of government computer security policy.

"According to AFMC's legal office, Air Force members -- military
or civilian -- may not legally access WikiLeaks at home on their
personal, non-governmental computers, either. To do so would not
only violate the SECAF [Secretary of the Air Force] guidance on
this issue,... it would also subject the violator to prosecution
for violation of espionage under the Espionage Act," the AFMC
legal office said.


Then, in an astounding interpretive leap, the AFMC went on to
say that similar prohibitions apply to the relatives of Air
Force employees.

"If a family member of an Air Force employee accesses WikiLeaks
on a home computer, the family member may be subject to
prosecution for espionage under U.S. Code Title 18 Section 793."

This is a breathtaking claim that goes far beyond any previous
reading of the espionage statutes.

"That has to be one of the worst policy/legal interpretations I
have seen in my entire career," said William J. Bosanko,
director of the Information Security Oversight Office, by email.

If taken seriously for a moment, the AFMC guidance raises a host
of follow-on questions.  What if a family member accessed
WikiLeaks on a computer outside the home?  What if a non-family
member accessed WikiLeaks on the home computer?  What if one
learns that a neighbor has accessed WikiLeaks in the neighbor's
home?  Is the Air Force employee obliged to intervene or to
report the violation to authorities? And how could any of this
possibly be constitutional?

Since the AFMC guidance is not based in existing case law or
past practice, these questions have no immediate answers.

Last December, a Department of Homeland Security official
complained to Secrecy News that government policy on WikiLeaks
produced the incongruous result that "my grandmother would be
allowed to access the cables but not me."  But if the new Air
Force guidance can be believed, this is incorrect because the
official's grandmother would be subject to prosecution under the
Espionage Act.

In reality, there does not seem to be even a remote possibility
that anyone's grandmother would be prosecuted in this way.

Instead, ironically enough, the real significance of the new
AFMC guidance could lie in its potential use as evidence for the
defense in one of the pending leak prosecutions under the
Espionage Act.  Defendants might argue that if the Espionage Act
can be seriously construed by Air Force legal professionals to
render a sizable fraction of the American public culpable of
espionage, then the Act truly is impermissibly broad, vague and

For a standard view of the general subject see "The Protection
of Classified Information: The Legal Framework," Congressional
Research Service, January 10, 2011:


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