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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pentagon Plans Legal Change to Crack Down on Military Whistleblowers

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02:36 30.12.2015(updated 03:21 30.12.2015) Get short URL

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After a year marked by repeated cyberattacks into US government databanks, the Department of Defense is tightening up its Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to prevent future breaches and leaks, legal and cyber analysts told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Former CIA counterterrorism officer and whistleblower John Kiriakou told Sputnik on Tuesday that the change in the Code seemed focused on bringing military legal procedures up to date to deal with the burgeoning field of cybercrime and cyberespionage.

"It may be that the law was outdated and didn't include ‘cybercrime," Kiriakou said.

The Defense Department has proposed a reform in the US Code of Military Justice to introduce punishment for specific computer offenses for the first time.

Retired US Army Major Todd Pierce, an author and expert on military law and civil liberties, told Sputnik the reform seemed to be focused on serving military personnel who became whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, rather than on civilian contractors such as Edward Snowden.

"I think it is more related to Manning as Snowden wouldn’t have come under the UCMJ as a civilian," Pierce pointed out.


Chelsea Manning, originally Bradley Manning, was a US Army soldier who was convicted in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified or unclassified, but sensitive military and diplomatic documents.

In August 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and will only be eligible for possible parole from August 2020.

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Pierce said the proposed changes in the UCMJ would make it easier for the US military to prosecute and convict future whistleblowers like Manning, who felt compelled to leak classified or sensitive material for the public good.

"I presume the offenses and the elements which will need to be shown for conviction will be made easier to prove than relying on General Articles and the incorporation of federal statutes," Pierce stated.

Independent Institute Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty Ivan Eland agreed that the Defense Department was belatedly reacting to the embarrassments it suffered from the successful data leaks and exposures by Snowden and Manning.

"The [proposed] Code revisions seem to be a reaction to the Snowden leaks. However, Snowden was a civilian and they are likely plugging leaks in the Code to deal with similar actions by military personnel," Eland noted.

Edward Snowden is a former CIA employee and former contractor for the US government who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) for public disclosure.

The information revealed many global surveillance programs run by the NSA and by the "Five Eyes" alliance of US, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand electronic intelligence and surveillance agencies.

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