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Disclosure of Classified Information: What You Need To Know

Disclosure of Classified Information

During this year’s election campaign season, many were watching closely as Hillary Clinton was investigated by the FBI for her mishandling of classified emails. Of course we all probably heard what each side was saying about her conduct, but what, if anything, did she do that was against the law?

What counts as disclosure of classified information?


According to United States Code 798, disclosure of classified information is defined as:

“Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information.”

  1. Concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or
  2. Concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or
  3. Concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or
  4. Obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes—

So why was Secretary Clinton being investigated?

All government employees were being instructed to use the email address housed on the State Department server – an address ending in @state.gov and Clinton used a personal email address housed on private servers in her home. She said this was for the ease of using one device to access all of her information.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi asked to see her emails and they weren’t on hand because of this, sparking an investigation which turned up over 100 emails which contained classified information, although only 3 of them had classification markers.

In addition, there are other factors influencing this case, and ultimately the FBI investigation did not turn up enough evidence that Clinton “knowingly and willfully” transmitted any classified information.

Take Away

An important aspect of this is Clinton’s use of email – that was what could have counted against her as “use of a device for intelligence purposes.” What can you expect if you are charged with disclosure of classified information?

Here are the criminal penalties if you are convicted:

  • A prison sentence of no more than a year and/or a $1,000 fine for officers and employees of the federal government who knowingly remove information with authority with the intention of keeping it at an unauthorized location
  • Fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years can occur when a federal employee transmits classified information to an agent of a foreign government.
  • The same penalties as above apply to any US government employee who publishes or makes use of information about codes or cryptography used in United States intelligence OR a foreign government
  • Any disclosure identifying a covert agent, done intentionally by a person with authorized access to that information is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.

If you are facing disclosure of classified information charges, please contact us today. We are here to help protect your freedom.

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This article was published on: December 2, 2016 and was last modified December 2, 2016