Espionage Act Prosecution Updates:

The editorial page of the Washington Post is concerned about last week's Espionage Act ruling.

The United States has never had an Official Secrets Act -- a statute forbidding private citizens from disclosing and discussing information the government wants to keep quiet. Last week it got one. The change didn't come from Congress but from a federal judge in Virginia. At the urging of the Bush administration, Judge T.S. Ellis discovered it in an old and vague law that prohibits disclosure of information related to the national defense.
The editorial stresses that federal prosecutors have not accused the defendants of spying -- apparently the facts alleged could not support such a charge -- and are instead seeking convictions on the grounds the defendants knowingly obtained and recommunicated classified information.

In a related development, Judge Ellis issued a ruling last Friday that may make it more difficult for the federal government to obtain convictions in this case. Specifically, Judge Ellis denied the government's motion to offer evidence that a document described as "not classified" in the indictment was, in fact, classified. Allowing such evidence to be admitted would constructively amend the indictment and constitute per se error, Judge Ellis ruled. This is potentially significant because, according to the government's allegations, this is the only document that one of the defendants specifically requested from a government official. The Secrecy News blog has more here.