Her Majesty’s Government has directly spoken up as for what they believe “unauthorised disclosures” are.
As a result, we do not consider that there is necessarily a distinction in severity between espionage and the most serious unauthorised disclosures, in the same way that there was in 1989.
Sentencing for unauthorised disclosure offences, Legislation to Counter State Threats (Hostile State Activity), Government Consultation. Page 19.
Therefore, the suggestion is to:
The Law Commission, in recommendation 14 of their Review, suggest that a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment does not provide the court with adequate powers in really serious cases of unauthorised disclosure, and that Parliament should consider increased maximum sentences for some offences under the 1989 Act.
With the continuous imprisonment of Julian Assange without a sentence, this is nothing but putting into law the long-standing policy of the United Kingdom.
Is this really what we want? Is knowledge, pure knowledge about the Powers That Be an asset to seize and trade with the other Powers, just like with Edward Snowden and him being seized in Russia. The Government most certainly believes so, and finds public access to the information worse than Russia/China/whoever capturing it.
The Government welcomes the recommendation (…) There are cases where an unauthorised disclosure may be as or more serious [than espionage], in terms of intent and/or damage. For example, documents made available online can now be accessed and utilised by a wide range of hostile actors simultaneously, whereas espionage will often only be to the benefit of a single state or actor.
Ibidem, pages 59 and 60.
This is just the part of the document I consider the most egregious. From the perspective of an immigrant, a suggestion to make disclosure offences extraterritorial is, well, interesting. There are other “curious” parts in there, especially in the Government’s response, but let us leave this alone for now.
The serious threat posed to UK interests by those who commit damaging unauthorised disclosures exists not solely in the case of British citizens, but also in the case of those who benefit from resident and settled status. (…) There may be circumstances in which the Crown should be able to consider prosecution against non-British citizens for unauthorised disclosure, who have caused damage through their disclosure, which we will consider further.
Ibidem, page 23.
Well, what can we do? There was a consultation running from the 13th of May until yesterday. This does not help, since I heard about this particular proposal yesterday. (The form seems to still be available, if you want to try.) A cursory look on Google News shows that the media outlets picked the story 2 days ago, in the second last day of the consultation. (1, 2)
Let us spread the news at least. These things are very easy to miss – not to say hidden. I keep up with Wise UP Action which is in favour of releasing Assange – let us see the future in which this worry of the greatest whistleblowers does not become the letter of the law, and worry of each and every of us who sees anything condemning to the Government.
- Home Office, Legislation to counter state threats, 13th of May 2021 (archived on the 23rd of July, 2021)
- Home Office, Legislation to Counter State Threats (Hostile State Activity), 13th of May, 2021 (copy)
- David Green, The Home Office wants to reform Official Secrets law by pretending journalism does not exist, The Law and Policy Blog, 20th of July, 2021 (as found on Reddit, archive)
- Duncan Campbell and Duncan Campbell, How a proposed secrecy law would recast journalism as spying, The Guardian, 20th of July, 2021 (archive)
- Roy Greenslade, The D-notice system: a typically British fudge that has survived a century, The Guardian, 31st of July, 2015 (archive)