Snowden aide Harrison takes refuge in Berlin

(By Deutsche Welle) After helping US whistleblower Edward Snowden attain asylum in Russia, British journalist Sarah Harrison has left Moscow. Harrison has taken refuge in Berlin, out of concern she could be detained in the UK.

National security leakers lead a precarious existence these days. Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over a year now, unable to leave for fear of being arrested by British authorities and extradited to Sweden as part of a sexual assault investigation. Assange believes that going to Sweden would be the first step in his extradition to the US and an eventual trial there.

Meanwhile, NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden is under constant guard in Moscow after having received temporary asylum in Russia. For now, at least, Snowden has managed to avoid the fate that befell Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, who was convicted on espionage charges and sentenced in June to 35 years in prison for leaking 250,000 US diplomatic cables.

Snowden’s good fortune is largely due to British journalist Sarah Harrison, a Wikileaks researcher who helped the former NSA contractor escape the long arm of the US Justice Department. Having assisted one of the US government’s top public enemies, she has now taken refuge in Berlin, reticent to return to her native England for fear of being detained by authorities under the UK Terrorism Act.

On Wednesday, Harrison published a letter calling for whistle-blowers to be shielded from prosecution, saying that “giving us the truth is not a crime.”

“Wikileaks continues to fight for the protection of sources,” Harrison wrote. “We have won the battle for Snowden’s immediate future, but the broader war continues.”

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Obama turns WWI-era law against leakers

(By Deutsche Welle) During WWI, President Wilson signed off on the Espionage Act, in a bid to keep a lid on German spies in the US. But 96 years later, President Obama is using the act to aggressively prosecute leaks to the press.

The Obama administration has cracked down hard on national security leaks to the press over the past four years, dusting off the almost 100-year-old Espionage Act to pursue prosecutions against leakers in seven cases, twice the number of any other presidency combined.

At the end of last month, Bradley Manning became the first successful Espionage Act conviction under the Obama administration. Manning was WikiLeaks’ source for some 700,000 diplomatic cables and battlefield reports, the largest single leak of secret information in US history. Edward Snowden, who leaked several secret National Security Agency surveillance programs to the press, is the latest leaker to be charged under the act.

Signed into law in 1917, the Espionage Act criminalizes the transmission of defense information, which could cause injury to the US or give advantage to a foreign nation, to unauthorized people. According to Stephen I. Vladeck, an expert on national security law, the language of the act makes no distinction between old-fashioned espionage by foreign spies and whistle-blowing government abuse to the press.

“For better or worse, the Espionage Act is the American statute that best fits the crime of wrongfully disclosing national security information to someone who’s not entitled to receive it,” Vladeck told DW via email.

“Whether we’d call it leaking, whistle-blowing, or classic espionage, the statute treats all three as the same offense – and so the government understandably gravitates toward it in any case where it can,” he said.

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