Laws against industrial sabotage?
rs at robertsheridan.com
Wed Dec 8 13:13:00 PST 2010
According to current news, Julian Assange has been ordered held w/o bail in Britain, pending a hearing on extradition, based on the alleged seriousness of what appears to be a form of battery (sexual) charges filed against him in Sweden. Two young women have come forward, according to a report heard on NPR yesterday, alleging that after consensual sex initially, using condoms, in separate encounters, Assange then sought sex w/o protection, drawing the complaints, in Stockholm. The women want him tested for their peace of mind, against disease.
Assange was of interest before that because of his effort to reveal confidential government information in the form of conversations among U.S. military members about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later, State Department officials.
Today's Times reports that A-G Holder's Justice Department is looking at various statutes that might be used to prosecute Mr. Assange. The U.S. is holding a low ranking soldier for having stolen the military records and turning them over to Assange, who portrays himself as merely the messenger, no more at fault for passing the information along than the Times and other publications for publishing them.
In the Pentagon Papers case, the Court found no obstacle to denying the government's request for an injunction against further publication in the fact that the historical papers had in fact been taken w/o authorization from the Pentagon by Daniel Ellsberg, a person who had access to read, but not take them away, copy, or distribute them to anyone, much less various newspapers for publication. Theft was no bar to publication.
The Court, as far as I'm aware, has left open the question as to the effect of the stolen character of the information wrongfully appropriated. There's the labor union dispute, secret recording case whose name escapes me until I hit the send button.
According to a law professor quoted in today's Times, the misappropriation of information, not physical property, brings the matter within the realm of intellectual property law, not physical property law, an interesting distinction.
I was wondering whether the U.S. has laws specifically addressed to the subject of industrial espionage, as in, "Suppose the agent of a foreign government tries to pry loose an industrial process, such as the Norden bomb-sight of yesteryear, or the architecture of the latest Silicon Valley computer chip?"
There may be a significant difference between wrongfully accessing and recording information belonging to the government to reveal alleged government abuse and stealing, or revealing, information privately held, such as belonging to Bank of America; or sabotaging MasterCard's ability to process transactions in retaliation for the jailing of Mr. Assange.
Do we have such laws, that is laws prohibiting "industrial espionage," or "sabotage?"
Have they been tested against the First Amendment press and expression guarantees?
In the Informational food-chain, how close to the source must one be to court prosecution for a violation of the Unofficial Secrets Act? The local news vendor? Handing the newspaper to one's spouse, sputtering, "Take a look at the latest outrage?"
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