UK: Law Commission proposals to radically increase prison terms for revealing and handling state secrets

“The Official Secrets Act 1989 (…) is reputedly one of the most draconian secrecy laws in the world. It seems to me to have been very effective at dissuading and preventing the 99.9% of British citizens who have signed to it from making unauthorised disclosures.

On the rare occasions where it has been breached, it could be argued that it was done to expose lies or misrepresentations of the truth and other forms of skullduggery.”

Katharine Gun — former GCHQ whistleblower

k-gun

Former GCHQ Katharine Gun

UK government’s legal advisers have been requested by Downing Street to draft a major overhaul of existing secrecy legislation prompting an outcry from  media organisations and civil rights groups. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

The new legislation would radically increase prison sentences for revealing state secrets. The law would also widen the definition of ‘Espionage’ in a way that would make it possible to prosecute journalists.

Specifically, the draft recommendations from the legal advisers propose that:

Maximum prison sentence for leakers should be raised from two to 14 years

The definition of espionage should be expanded to include obtaining sensitive information, as well as passing it on.

Foreigners should be criminalised for such actions. (meaning that Snowden would be prosecutable in the UK.)

Jim Killock, the chief executive of Open Rights Group, does not mince his words about the project.

“This is a full-frontal attack, recommending criminalising even examining secret services’ material. The intention is to stop the public from ever knowing that any secret agency has ever broken the law.

It’s squarely aimed at the Guardian and Edward Snowden. They want to make it a criminal offence for journalists to handle a large volume of documents in the way that journalists did with Snowden.”

Iraq war whistleblower Katharine Gun on Edward Snowden leaks

REFERENCES

No 10 denies plans would curb freedom of journalists and whistleblowers  — The Guardian

Ex-GCHQ whistleblower attacks plans to extend dragnet of secrecy law  — The Guardian

Katharine Gun — former GCHQ whistleblower  — The Guardian

This entry was posted in GCHQ, Official Secrets Act 1989 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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