Translator Charged under Espionage Act…but not with Espionage

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A former military linguist has been arrested and charged with violating the Espionage Act, even though he didn’t actually commit espionage.


James F. Hitselberger, a civilian linguist working for the U.S. Navy in Bahrain, was caught possessing classified documents. The government admits, however, that Hitselberger did not pass on the information to any foreign power.


Nevertheless, the Arabic translator faces criminal prosecution under a section of the Espionage Act that deals with potentially compromising national security. In Hitselberger’s case this includes exposing “current locations and activities of specific U.S. military units around the Middle East” He is charged with “unlawful retention of national defense information.”


In his defense, Hitselberger claims he did not know the papers were classified and only took them to read.


An investigation by the government accuses Hitselberger of stealing additional classified materials dealing with Iran and Iraq and donating at least three of them, along with other papers, to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, which established a collection in his name.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Document Collector Charged Under Espionage Statute (by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News)

United States v. James Hitselberger (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia) (pdf)


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