Terrorist, Traitor, or Whistleblower? Offences and Protections in Australia for Disclosing National Security Information

36 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2014

See all articles by George Williams

George Williams

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - UNSW Law & Justice

Keiran Hardy

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - UNSW Law & Justice

Date Written: September 8, 2014

Abstract

Intentional leaks of classified information are becoming more frequent. The WikiLeaks and Snowden affairs raise fundamental questions about the balance to be struck between the transparency of government and the protection of classified information. Debates about whether these leaks were morally or ethically justified will continue, without the prospect of a definitive resolution. The purpose of this article is narrower and focused on Australia. It examines how Australian law would deal with the actions of people such as Assange, Manning and Snowden if undertaken with regard to Australian interests and information. This has not before been examined, but is a question of significant public interest.

Specifically, the paper considers the offences and protections available under the law where an Australian citizen discloses sensitive government information. In doing so, we also evaluate whether that law provides an adequate, or overbroad, means of dealing with such situations. The paper finds that, while there is certainly a wide variety of laws available to address the disclosure of national security information, in some cases these laws may be inadequate. This is because recent developments may require such laws to be applied to new purposes for which they were not originally designed. Furthermore, the paper raises questions as to the appropriateness of criminal law in some scenarios related to information leakage and security.

Keywords: national security information disclosure, Australian Law, WikiLeaks, Snowden, Assange, Manning

Suggested Citation

Williams, George and Hardy, Keiran, Terrorist, Traitor, or Whistleblower? Offences and Protections in Australia for Disclosing National Security Information (September 8, 2014). University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 37, No. 2, 2014, UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2014-44, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2493136

George Williams (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - UNSW Law & Justice ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052
Australia

Keiran Hardy

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - UNSW Law & Justice ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052
Australia

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