Accessing WikiLeaks Violates Espionage Act, USAF Says





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....


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