Wired in its “Danger Room” blog has this.

Last week, the Air Force Material Command’s lawyers warned that airmen who read the purloined classified cables on their home computers — not even government owned or issued devices — could be prosecuted for “dereliction of duty.” And that’s just for starters. ****** viewership could mean “prosecution for violation of espionage under the Espionage Act.”

“DO NOT access the W****  information on government or personal computers;” the command’s legal staff urged, “DO treat the leaked material like any other content assumed to be classified.”

But the Air Force doesn’t stop there. Your mom, your kids, your cousins — they can’t access ******* either. If you don’t stop them from reading those documents, they’re looking at a potential Espionage Act prosecution, too.

Steven Aftergood, the secrecy and intelligence guru at the Federation of the American Scientists, asked the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office what to make of the Air Force Material Command guidance. “That has to be one of the worst policy/legal interpretations I have seen in my entire career,” replied director William J. Bosanko.

There was an update:

That was fast. An Air Force spokesman tells Josh Gerstein of Politico that the legal guidance is now under review: “We were just trying to give guidance to military and civilian servicemembers and employees to control their young’uns.” That’s the service’s business?

Does anyone remember this as a response when the Pentagon Papers were published?

Stephen Kim writing on Secrecy News: Secrecy from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy had this pithy comment:

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 unconstitutional.

Josh Gerstein on Under the Radar seems to agree with Mr. Kim.

This sort of argument for a extraordinarily broad reading of the Espionage Act will, in my view, ultimately be unhelpful to those seeking to use the act to prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange or others who serve as conduits for classified leaks. If every American who looked at the documents on the New York Times website is a criminal, then the law is absurd.

Mr. Gerstein notes this slam at Air Force lawyers:

"We’re pulling the story. It apparently confused many people," Rumple told me Monday afternoon. " We were just trying to give guidance to military and civilian servicemembers and employees to control their young’uns. However, we’ve been told there may be other guidance from [the Justice Department] that we haven’t heard or see. So, we’re going to make sure we get the right stuff before we put it back up."

So let’s get this straight.  Air Force lawyers were trying to explain to the troops why they, their family, and their parents could be guilty of espionage – in an apparently confusing way – got it.  I wonder if these are the same people advising commanders on military justice issues?

Contact Information