FAS In-Depth June 15, 2012: Leaks and National Security
FAS In-Depth: June 15, 2012
Leaks and National Security
The brewing controversy over leaks of classified information presumes that disclosures of classified information to unauthorized persons are always impermissible and undesirable. But that presumption does not correspond precisely to the reality of government operations as they are conducted in practice. A resolution introduced by Sen. John McCain and twenty Republican colleagues calling for appointment of a special counsel to investigate recent leaks stated flatly that “the unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a felony under Federal law.” Speaking on the Senate floor on June 12, Senator John Cornyn said that "the unauthorized release of classified information is a crime–it is a crime–because it threatens our national security and puts the lives of those who are sworn to defend our Nation in jeopardy. Everyone agrees [this] is criminal conduct.” Steven Aftergood writes that these statements are imprecise and misleading. While some unauthorized disclosures of classified information are indeed contrary to law, it is not the case that all such disclosures violate the law. In fact, there is no law that categorically prohibits the release of classified information. For more information on leaks and the threat to national security, check out these FAS resources and much more on our website.