Convictions for leaking sensitive government information to the media are rare; only twice have government employees gone to prison for such misdeeds, says the Washington Post. Legal experts say prosecutors will have a hard time putting away anyone in the Bush administration for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in the revelation of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity in 2003. The bar for breaking the 1982 law is high. Whoever makes the disclosure must know that the person was a “covert agent” and must intentionally reveal the agent’s identity to someone not authorized to know it.
Prosecutors used another law on the embezzlement of public property to help build successful cases against Samuel L. Morison, a former Navy intelligence analyst, and Jonathan Randel, a former Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence research specialist. The statute “is used by the government from time to time in lieu of not having a criminal prohibition on leaking classified information, generally,” said William Banks, a national security law expert at Syracuse University. “It isn’t a good fit, but it’s the best available.” Kevin Goldberg, a partner at Cohn and Marks LLP in Washington, said prosecutors might try to use it. “I think that’s a really bad precedent to set, however,” he said. “Essentially, you are just creating almost an Official Secrets Act in which all government information belongs to the government, and can never be given out to a member of the public.”