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Let's say I have a briefcase full of Top Secret papers, and I carelessly leave it on the table at Burger King and it falls into the wrong hands.

18 U.S. Code § 798 apparently only applies if I "knowingly and willfully" provide the information to an unauthorized person.

My employer certainly expects me to safeguard the information I have been entrusted with, but does my negligence actually violate any law?

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    I limited the jurisdictional scope in light of the reference to a U.S. statute.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 5, 2023 at 20:24
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    If your employer is Bob's Burgers and they decide to stamp something Top Secret, that's one thing, but this would generally mean classified by the government.
    – Tiger Guy
    Jun 5, 2023 at 21:09
  • I didn't think that needed to be said, but yes. Information crucial to national security, not proprietary burger seasoning recipes... Thanks. Jun 5, 2023 at 23:32

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Assuming all the required elements are met, 18 U.S. Code § 793(f)(1) would presumably apply:

Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information

(f)Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense

  • (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or

  • (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer— Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

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My employer certainly expects me to safeguard the information I have been entrusted with, but does my negligence actually violate any law?

Normally contract law, in which you promise not to disclose information (even if not negligent) in a non-disclosure agreement signed between you and the employer, and trade secret statutes. *See, e.g., Colorado Rev. Statutes § 7-74-101, et seq.

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