The current laws are being overhauled by the British Government as it seeks to ban journalism that’s considered to pose a threat to national security due to it being based on leaked secret information. This will be the first official reworking of the Official Secrets Act in 100 years. The new law will mean that whistleblowers who leak state secrets or information will face a 14-year prison sentence.
The law will also ensure that foreign spies or snoop on the British Embassies or those that steal information and leak it overseas will also face prosecution in British court for the first time. The new plans which are currently under consideration by ministers will also jail officials who leak sensitive information about the British economy.
In a report published by the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/02/reforms-official-secrets-act-century-opportunity-modernise-anti/, the proposals from Government’s independent law advisers also advise that the four Official Secrets Acts, which back to 1911, are scrapped and replaced with a modernized espionage Act and a data disclosure law. In a statement made by experts, the Law Commission’s plans which are drawn up after a request from the Cabinet Office and in consultation with MI5 and MI6 as well as civil liberty groups which were vital in helping Britain tackle the snooping threat from Russia. The review makes it clear that it’s vital for the United Kingdom to have a robust legislative response that will meet the challenges posed by espionage in the 21st Century, adding that current legislation is not capable of reflecting the potential harm and culpability that may arise in a serious case of stealing state secrets.
The Official Secrets Act of 1989 states that an unauthorized disclosure of classified information carries a maximum sentence of just two years in jail, the same penalty applies for a data breach by a National Lottery worker. This will be the first time that the review on official secrets legislation has been overhauled in a century amid concerns that it is archaic and that it has failed to keep pace with the advances that are taking place in technology.
The review makes it clear that in the digital age, the volume of information that can be disclosed without authorization is much greater than when the Official Secrets Act of 1989 was drafted. This implies that the ability to cause damage to the national interest and the risk of such damage occurring has also increased.