In 1917, just after the US entered into World War I, Congress passed the Espionage Act to ensure no secrets would be leaked to enemies during war. Today prosecutors have expanded the reach of the law and are using the Act to pursue Americans suspected of divulging secrets to the press.
Nine times in US history, all of them since 1971, federal prosecutors have brought charges under the Espionage Act for disclosing information to a newspaper, blog, book or other media outlet. Six cases occurred in the last eight years.
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden faces the same threat after admitting to leaking secret US surveillance documents to Britain's Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post.
These are the previous nine cases.
1. Pentagon Papers
Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, the US military analyst who, while employed by the RAND Corporation in 1971, released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of us government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, to The New York Times, speaks to reporters December 22, 2011, at Fort Meade, Maryland. Paul J. Richards. AFP/Getty Images.
Daniel Ellsberg became the first case in 1971, when prosecutors accused the national security analyst and his colleague Anthony Russo of providing top-secret government documents that would threaten national security to the press. The secret documents, which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers,revealed the extent of US involvement in Vietnam. Charges against the two men were dismissed when it was discovered that the government had wiretapped Ellsberg, possibly illegally. Since then, Ellsberg has remained a vocal advocate of a free press and has come out to suppport both Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.
2. Soviet Photos
A Soviet warship (foreground) passes alongside the US guided missile frigate USS Thach as it enters the Gulf off the coast of Oman November 21, 1987. Samuel Loring Morison was accused of illegally passing photos of Soviet ships to the press in 1984. Norbert Schiller. AFP/Getty Images.
Samuel Morison, a former US Navy intelligence analyst, was charged in 1984 with illegally passing secret photographs of Soviet ships to a magazine, Jane's Defense Weekly. He pleaded not guilty, but a jury convicted him, making him the first person convicted under the Espionage Act for divulging secrets to the press. He was sentenced to two years in prison but paroled. President Bill Clinton pardoned him.
3. Iran Intel
Lawrence Franklin (C), exits the federal courthouse after appearing in court on October 5, 2005. Joe Raedle. AFP/Getty Images.
Lawrence Franklin, a Defense Department employee, was charged in 2005 with passing classified information about Iran to two pro-Israel lobbyists, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman. Franklin pleaded guilty and received a 12-year sentence. Eventually, after the government's case against Rosen and Weissman collapsed, a judge reduced Franklin's sentence to 10 months in a halfway house.
4. FBI Translator
The seal of the F.B.I. hangs in the Flag Room at the bureau's headquarters March 9, 2007 in Washington, DC.. Chip Somodevilla. Getty Images.
Shamai Leibowitz was an FBI translator when material that he heard while translating ended up on a blog. He reached an agreement with prosecutors before he was charged, and pleaded guilty in 2009 to one count of disclosing classified information. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison.
5. NSA Waste
The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Photo by NSA via Getty Images.
Former NSA official Thomas Drake was suspected in 2010 of revealing information about the agency's warrantless wiretapping program. He was indicted under the Espionage Act but said the only information he leaked was about waste in a NSA program, which he gave to the Baltimore Sun. The 10 felony counts were dropped when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received no prison time.
6. North Korea Intel
A propaganda poster reads 'Let's go along with General Kim Jong-Il to victory' at the top of a building in Pyongyang. Ian Timberlake. AFP/Getty Images.
Stephen Kim, a US State Department contract analyst, divulged to a Fox News reporter what US intelligence believed about how North Korea would respond to new sanctions. A grand jury indicted him in 2010 for disclosing defense information and making false statements, based in part on Fox News records the government seized without notice. He has pleaded not guilty and a trial date is possible in late 2013 or early 2014.
US Army Private Bradley Manning is escorted as he leaves a military court at the end of the first of a three-day motion hearing June 6, 2012 in Fort Meade, Maryland. Alex Wong. Getty Images.
Bradley Manning, an Army private first class, is on trial in a Maryland military court, accused of passing more than 700,000 classified files to WikiLeaks in the biggest leak of secret documents in US history. Manning, who pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges in February, faces 21 additional counts including aiding the enemy, and could get life in prison if convicted. The verdict in Manning's trial is expected on July 30, 2013.
8. CIA Book Source
A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Saul Loeb. AFP/Getty Images.
Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was charged in 2011 with illegally disclosing classified information about Iran to James Risen, aNew York Times reporter, for his book "State of War." The case remains pending, as the government has tried unsuccessfully to force Risen to testify about his sources.
9. Interrogation Leak
John Kiriakou. Truthout.org/Flickr Creative Commons.
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou was charged in 2012 with divulging to journalists secret information about the CIA's interrogation program, including the identity of a covert officer. In an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to one count and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He started serving the sentence in February.
Produced by James Miller/GlobalPost.