Transcript of Franklin Sentencing Hearing Online

“All persons who have authorized possession of classified information, and persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into possession in an unauthorized way of classified information, must abide by the law. They have no privilege to estimate that they can do more good with it.”

“So, that applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever. They are not privileged to disobey the laws, because we are a country that respects the rule of law.”

Thus spoke Judge T.S. Ellis, III, in a January 20, 2006 sentencing hearing (pdf) for former Defense Department official Lawrence A. Franklin, who was convicted of unauthorized disclosures of classified information. His remarks were first reported (in slightly truncated form) by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Judge Ellis’ statement was extraordinary because it appeared to endorse the new Bush Administration theory that not only leakers but also unauthorized recipients of classified information can be prosecuted for retaining or disclosing such information to others.

This reading of the law, which has never prevailed before, could now be used against academics, lawyers, newsletter writers, newsletter readers, whatever.

It is currently being tested in the prosecution of two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who are accused of mishandling classified information that was provided to them by Mr. Franklin. Neither of the two AIPAC employees held a security clearance.

A copy of the transcript of the January 20 sentencing hearing (pdf) at which Judge Ellis made his surprising remarks was obtained by Secrecy News.

See, relatedly, “Suppression of witness names underlines battle in AIPAC case” by Ron Kampeas and Matthew E. Berger, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 15, 2006.

No Responses to “Transcript of Franklin Sentencing Hearing Online”

  1. Bloomkind March 22, 2006 at 3:59 AM #

    I am not sure why FAS and other outlets are trying make AIPAC into some kind of martyr of freedom. Its activities were clearly illegal and in violation of US law. Let’s be careful not to confound the defence of freedom with a defence of illicit activity.

    Of course the Ellis elaboration is frightening. My question is, is it trully new? What was the former practice on possession of Classified information? Wasn’t any such possession criminal already?

  2. zz March 26, 2006 at 1:57 AM #

    Posted for those who may have missed this interesting update from the AP:

    Judge: Charges against AIPAC officials may be unconstitutional

    By The Associated Press

    03/25/06 “Haaretz” — – ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal judge on Friday questioned the constitutionality of a law under which two former lobbyists with a pro-Israel group have been charged with receiving and disclosing national defense information.

    U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said the law, enacted by Congress during World War I, may be unconstitutionally broad and vague, especially given its potential impact on First Amendment rights.

    Ellis questioned prosecutors about the law during a pretrial hearing for Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who each face felony trials next month.

    Defense lawyers argued that the charges against their clients should be dismissed because of the law’s defects. In particular, they say the law’s prohibition on receiving and disclosing “national defense information,” even information that is unclassified, is far too broad and vague.

    [...]

    Hat tip to Complier Source: Information Clearing House.)