For the Sake of National Security: Plugging in the Leaks

International & National Security Law Practice Group Teleforum
Start : Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:00 PM
End : Thursday, February 21, 2013 01:00 PM

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Conference Call

Featured Speakers:
Ben Wizner
Nathan A. Sales


Leaks seem to be ubiquitous these days.  Within the past several years, government employees have revealed details about a number of classified military and intelligence matters, including the following: a Pakistani doctor who is said to have helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan; the government’s purported process for selecting targets for drone strikes, including President Obama’s personal participation in the decisions; and the alleged role of the United States and Israel in developing malware designed to disable the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons program.

What are the government’s options for preventing or sanctioning these sorts of leaks?  And what are the constitutional constraints on these efforts to safeguard classified information?  May the government prosecute alleged leakers under the Espionage Act, a World War I era statute designed to protect against spies working for foreign governments?  May it prosecute newspapers, bloggers, and others who publish leaked documents?  Even if the Espionage Act applies to leaks on its face, do the First Amendment and other constitutional guarantees nevertheless prohibit the government from punishing employees who leak documents and media outlets who publish them?  Should Congress amend the Espionage Act to better address leaks?  Or should it scrap the statute and craft entirely new legislation that is specifically geared to the problem?


  • Mr. Ben Wizner, Director, Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Prof. Nathan A. Sales, George Mason University School of Law

Call begins at 12:00 noon Eastern Time.

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Related Materials:
For the Sake of National Security: Plugging in the Leaks - Podcast