By Elizabeth Shell and Vanessa Dennis | Aug. 21, 2013

This page has been updated to reflect new developments. It was first published on July 12, 2013.

11 'Leakers' Charged With Espionage


What Sets Edward Snowden Apart From Other Alleged Leakers?

Story by Larisa Epatko -- Edward Snowden is the eighth leaker to be charged with espionage under the Obama administration. Before 2010, only 3 previous leakers had ever been saddled with charges under the 1917 Espionage Act.

The Justice Department has not addressed the question of why this administration has repeatedly turned to the espionage statutues except to say it's not a deliberate policy of going all out, it's just how things have turned out, said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. Aftergood has his own theories to explain the increase in espionage charges, including that it's simply become easier to identify the leaker. "More and more of our communications leave easily accessible electronic footprints, whether it's email or phone records or downloads of documents on classified networks. It is easier than ever to track them to their source," he said. Read the full article.

Below, you can explore the history of leakers, from the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks.

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Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg worked on a top secret study of U.S. decision making in Vietnam. In 1969, he photocopied the 7,000 page study and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 1971 he gave it to the New York Times, the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. The New York Times published what would be the first of nine excerpts of the study, known as the Pentagon Papers, on Sunday, June 13, 1971. Read the indictment

Ellsberg's case (which carried a possible sentence of 115 years) was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, including illegal wiretapping. This misconduct was included in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.

Espionage Charges
  • 793(c): Receiving national defense documents
  • 793(d) (e): Communicating national defense documents
  • 793(e): Retaining National Defense Documents
"I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public."

Samuel Morison

Samuel Morison was a former American intelligence professional who was charged with sending confidential satellite images of Soviet nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to a military defense magazine. The government did not claim that Morison's actions had damaged U.S. interests, only that further disclosures of comparable information might eventually enhance Soviet capabilities. Read the case file.

Morison was convicted on two counts of espionage and two counts of theft of government property on October 17, 1985 and was sentenced to two years in prison on December 4, 1985. President Clinton pardoned Morison on January 20, 2001, the last day of his presidency, despite opposition by the CIA.

Espionage Charges
  • 793(d): Communicating national defense documents
  • 793(e): Retaining National Defense Documents
"[I]f the American people knew what the Soviets were doing, they would increase the defense budget."

Lawrence Franklin

Lawrence Franklin, a former United States Department of Defense employee with hopes of gaining a "harder line" on Iranian policy, passed classified documents regarding U.S. policy towards Iran to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who in turn provided the information to Israel. Read the case file.

A federal grand jury indicted Franklin on five charges of violating the Espionage Act. He pled guilty and was sentenced in January 2006 to nearly 13 years of prison -- later reduced to ten months house arrest.

Espionage Charges
  • 793(d): Communicating national defense documents
  • 793(d), (e) and (g): Conspiracy to communicate national defense infonnation to persons not entitled to receive it
"I wanted to kind of shock people at the [National Security Council], to shock them into pausing and giving another consideration into why regime change needed to be the policy."

Thomas Drake

In 2006 Thomas Drake, a senior executive of the NSA, communicated unclassified information to a reporter who subsequently wrote articles about the waste, fraud and abuse at the NSA that Drake had complained about. In November 2007 the FBI raided Drake's residence and confiscated his computers, documents and books. Drake initially cooperated with the investigation, telling the FBI about the alleged illegality of the NSA's activities. Read the case file.

The government dropped all charges against Drake and agreed not to seek any jail time in return for Drake's agreement to plead guilty to a misdemeanor of misusing the agency's computer system. Drake was sentenced to one year of probation and community service.

Espionage Charges
  • 793(e): Retention of Classified Information
  • 793(c): Retention of Classified Information
  • 793(e): Retention of Classified Information
  • 793(e): Retention of Classified Information
  • 793(e): Retention of Classified Information
"I did what I did because I am rooted in the faith that my duty was to the American people."

Shamai Leibowitz

Shamai Leibowitz worked as a Hebrew linguist for the FBI to translate wiretapped conversations among Israeli diplomats in the U.S. He passed classified transcripts of conversations describing an Israeli diplomatic campaign to create a hostile environment for U.S. relations with Iran to a blogger who subsequently published them. Read the case file.

Leibowitz was sentenced to 20 months in prison. ProPublica reports that at the time of his sentencing, not even the judge knew exactly what he had leaked, though later disclosures indicated it was FBI wiretaps of conversations between Israeli diplomats about Iran.

Espionage Charges
  • 798(a): Disclosure of Classified Information
"During the course of my work I came across wrongdoings that led me to conclude this is an abuse of power ... I should not have done what I did, and I regret it terribly."

Bradley Manning

Pfc. Bradley Manning was charged with multiple violations of the Espionage Act after disclosing more than 700,000 classified state department cables and government documents to WikiLeaks. Read the case file.

Manning was charged with 22 offenses, including several related to Espionage. On February 28, 2013, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the charges. The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, found him guilty of 20 of the charges, six of which fell under the Espionage Act. Manning faced up to 90 years in prison, but was acquitted of the most serious charge -- aiding the enemy. On Aug. 21, 2013, he was sentenced by Lind to 35 years in prison and was dishonorably discharged.

The case now automatically heads to Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

Espionage Charges
Presented by incidence
  • 793(e): The 2007 July 12 Baghdad video
  • 793(e): A file named "12 JUL 07 CZ ENGAGEMENT ZONE 30 GC Anyone.avi"
  • 793(e): Memorandi from a US intelligence agency
  • 793(e): >20 records from the CIDNEI database
  • 793(e): >20 records from the CIDNEA database
  • 793(e): >3 records from a US Southern Command database
  • 793(e): >5 records relating to an operation in Farah Province, Afghanistan
  • 793(e): The files "BE22" and "BE22 PAX.wmv"
  • 793(e): A record of a US Army Intelligence organization
"I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions, I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people. ... I understood what I was doing and the decisions I made. However, I did not truly appreciate the broader effects of my actions. Those effects are clearer to me now through both self-reflection during my confinement in its various forms and through the merits and sentencing testimony that I have seen here."

Stephen Jin-Woo Kim

Stephen Kim, a former a senior adviser for intelligence on detail to the State Department's arms control compliance bureau, was charged for revealing classified information to a reporter that North Korea might test a nuclear bomb. Read the case file.

Kim has pled not guilty. Trial is ongoing.

Espionage Charges
  • 793(d): Unauthorized Disclosure of National Defense Information

Jeffrey Sterling

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was charged for revealing details about Operation Merlin -- an alleged covert operation under the Clinton Administration to provide Iran with a flawed design for building a nuclear weapon in order to delay the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program -- to New York Times journalist James Risen. Read the case file.

Sterling's defense has entered a not guilty plea. The prosecution has subpoenaed James Risen to testify and reveal his journalistic sources; Risen is contesting.

Espionage Charges
  • 793(d): Unauthorized Disclosure of National Defense Information
  • 793(e): Unauthorized Disclosure of National Defense Information
  • 793(e): Unlawful Retention of National Defense Information

John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, was charged for leaking information about colleagues involved in "enhanced" interrogation programs, specifically waterboarding, with a reporter. On April 5, he was indicted with one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, three counts of violating the Espionage Act, and one count of making false statements for allegedly lying to the Publications Review Board of the CIA. Read the case file.

Kiriakou was convicted of violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and sentenced to 30 months in prison on January 25, 2013. He reported to the low-security Federal correctional facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania, to begin serving his term on February 28, 2013. He was not convicted for espionage.

Espionage Charges
  • 93(d) - Disclosure of National Defense Information
"I believe my case was about torture, not about leaking. I'm right on the torture issue, the administration is wrong, and I'm just going to carry that with me."

James Hitselberger

James Hitselberger, a former Navy linguist and collector of rare documents, worked as an Arabic translator for the United States Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, conducting counterterrorism and special reconnaissance. He allegedly copied documents that revealed troop activities and gaps within U.S. intelligence about Bahrain. He was charged with violating the Espionage Act for providing classified documents to the Hoover Institution (pictured) at Stanford University. Read the case file.

Hitselberger is currently under home detention at his aunt's residence in Arlington, Va.

Espionage Charges
  • 793(e): Unauthorized retention of national defense information
"There were classified materials? I am sure they brought unwanted excitement. Yes, there was indeed an incident in Bahrain. I was unable to locate my regular reading glasses that day ... and I did not notice the 'secret' designation at the bottom."

Edward Snowden

CIA employee Edward Snowden leaked details of top secret U.S. and British government mass surveillance programs, including PRISM and Tempora, anonymously to the press. Snowden's identity was made public by The Guardian at his request soon after. Read the case file.

Edward Snowden been granted temporary asylum by Russia. His passport has been revoked and American officials are asking for his extradition to the U.S.

Espionage Charges
  • 793(d) - Unauthorized Communication of National Defence Information
  • 798(a)(3) - Willful Communication of Classified Communications Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person
"Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him ... the better off we all are."

Posted: July 12, 2013