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national security espionage defense lawyers

July 2, 2020

The federal government is entrusted with defending American citizens. Americans count on the federal government to protect them from all kinds of threats. One of the most important is what is known as national security. National security is anything that threatens the ability of the government to carry out their sworn duties to the American public. The concept of national security can take a great many forms. What the term means has undergone revision over the years. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on American soil, laws pertaining to the enforcement of national security goals have been drastically revised.

National security laws have also kept up with changing technologies. Laws governing espionage now extend to areas such as internet use and the globally economically intertwined business world. Any company or individual who has been charged with violating national security in any way should understand what these charges mean, what potential penalties may exist and why is crucial to find effective counsel in order to muster the best possible legal defense.

What Espionage Means

Espionage is a legal term that means the person or company was engaged in some form of spying on the United States government. The end goal of such spying was to provide access to secrets American government officials would prefer to keep under wraps. A typical spy leaks such information to foreign government officials or to foreign companies that are not entitled to access to this information.

Americans and American registered companies can be convicted of this crime. The same is true of those who are temporarily residing in the country or even those who are living abroad and residents of another country.

Espionage Vs. Intelligence Gathering

There are many types of crimes that fall under the heading of espionage. Someone can be charged with providing aid to someone they know is going to commit espionage. A person can also be charged if they gather information about national security. For example, if they go to a military base and take pictures the kind of activities going on at that base. Someone can also be charged with this kind of crime if they then sell that information to a foreign power or even a friendly country that is not authorized to have access to such information. If someone publishes the information they have without the express authorization of the government, this is also considered a type of espionage.

While these are crimes, it is legal to gather intelligence about certain places and activities. The important point is such actions were done without permission or in an effort to sell this data to an unauthorized agency, individual, company, or foreign government. If a person had access to classified data, that person can only share it with others who have the same classification level.

Possible Punishments

Deliberately breaching national security protocols is a high level crime. Members of the armed forced may not only face fines and imprisonment. The Uniform Code of Military Justice considers espionage, along with drug trafficking and treason one of a handful of crimes that can lead to the death penalty if found guilty. Civilians also face huge penalties. Americans can be sentenced to a term of life imprisonment. A foreign national with an espionage conviction may be expelled and never allowed back in the United States.

Other Issues

Any sentence for national security espionage will take many factors into account before a sentence is handed down. Each case is generally carefully evaluated. A civilian judge will examine the evidence as well as the circumstances in which the crime was committed. Military judges may have a more strict examination that takes into account the oath the person took to serve and protect the interests of the American government. Points may be added that include how much information was transmitted as well as how it was used by the recipient. Acts of espionage, like many other crimes, have a statue of limitations. Unlike many other types of federal crimes, espionage can be prosecuted as long as ten years after the initial offense. Having a lawyer present during any proceedings related to national security espionage charges is imperative.

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