Intentionally disclosing classified information without authorization is a federal crime under the espionage act. Punishment may be up to ten years in prison, a large fine, or could even get you charged with treason. But, for the vast majority of individuals who leak classified information – think Reality Winner, Harold Martin, or Chelsea Manning – jail time is often limited and fines non-existent.
Recently Ron Rockwell Hansen was convicted of selling secrets to China – and got a 10-year prison sentence. Hansen received more than $800,000 from China. He also used his online professional networks to try to recruit other spies for China. Hansen is just the latest in a series of aggressive espionage activities by China.
It often seems like a slap on the hand compared to the serious repercussions faced by the federal government. The fact is, it’s very difficult to conduct a trial involving leaks of classified information. When the information involved is sensitive, the government often looks to settle, rather than drag out the case in court.
So, what will happen to you if you leak classified information? If convicted, some jail time is a virtual guarantee, and any hopes of a normal career are over.