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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Leaking U.S. Secrets Gets Spy Soft Plea Deal

A National Security Agency employee is being allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misusing the agency's computer system, escaping much more serious felony charges for violations of the Espionage Act.

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This soft deal sends a curious message to government employees who disclose confidential government information to the news media and possibly endanger American lives, investments or other national interests.  The misdemeanor charge and dismissal of felony charges weakens any possible deterrent effect of such prosecutions -- the strongest reason to undertake the criminal prosecution of employees who, perhaps in misguided loyalty to principles or succumbing to an overactive (and equally misguided) sense of self-righteousness, decide to become the arbiters of justice and seek to right certain government "wrongs." 

While whistleblowers serve an effective function, some government employees forget that disagreements over government policy do not justify or excuse the conscious disregard of rules, orders and laws -- particularly when such disregard can endanger the lives of American spies, diplomats and military working abroad.
Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer, political strategist and business consultant.  He can be contacted at

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