from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 121
December 5, 2012

Secrecy News Blog:


James F. Hitselberger, a Navy contract linguist who was charged under the Espionage Act for mishandling classified records, yesterday asked a court to release him from pre-trial detention. His release would pose no hazard, and he is not a flight risk, his public defenders said.

Mr. Hitselberg allegedly removed classified records from a secure facility in Bahrain, and had previously donated classified materials to the Hoover Institution, which maintains a James F. Hitselberger Collection. (See "Document Collector Charged Under Espionage Statute," Secrecy News, November 7, 2012.) He is not suspected of transmitting classified information to a foreign power.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Hitselberger is a shadowy figure who might vanish if released from custody. They urged that he be detained until trial.

"For almost eight months, the defendant, James Hitselberger, has lived as a fugitive," according to a November 29 government memorandum. "He speaks multiple foreign languages, has an apparent network of friends and acquaintances overseas, and is adept in adapting to foreign surroundings."

But in a motion for reconsideration filed yesterday, defense attorneys said that prosecutors had misrepresented the facts.

Mr. Hitselberger "neither fled nor hid from law enforcement officials." He "never tried to conceal his identity or location." Although government officials had his contact information, "no government agent ever contacted Mr. Hitselberger or asked him to return to the United States."

"The facts demonstrate that Mr. Hitselberger was not a fugitive, [and he] cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation of his conduct... He was never told that law enforcement agents required him to return to the United States, and he did not 'flee' from law enforcement," defense attorneys wrote.

Even prosecutors admitted that "Hitselberger has no history of violence. Nor has the government's investigation revealed that he has tried to pass any of the classified information he has acquired to a foreign power."

Under the circumstances, defense attorneys asked the court to release Mr. Hitselberger from pre-trial detention into the custody of his family, and under electronic monitoring.

"The evidence does not support a finding that Mr. Hitselberger would be a substantial risk of flight or a danger to the community if released," they wrote. "Mr. Hitselberger will comply with conditions of release and has neither the passport necessary nor the will to flee."

The offenses allegedly committed by Mr. Hitselberger are undoubtedly violations of classification policy. But the notion that they rise to the level of multiple felonies is hard to credit, and suggests an excess of zeal among prosecutors.

A status conference in the case will be held on December 13.

See also "Linguist charged with pilfering records seeks release" by Josh Gerstein, Politico, December 5:


On January 6, 2013 Congress will convene to count electoral votes and to formally certify the results of the last presidential election. The process was detailed by the Congressional Research Service in "Counting Electoral Votes: An Overview of Procedures at the Joint Session, Including Objections by Members of Congress," November 30, 2012:

The declining economic condition of many state governments is examined by CRS in "State Government Fiscal Stress and Federal Assistance," December 3, 2012:

And for members of Congress who never had civics class, CRS explains how a bill becomes a law in "Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress," November 30, 2012:

See also the elementary "Introduction to the Federal Budget Process," December 3, 2012:

Other new and updated CRS reports that Congress has not made publicly available include the following.

Congressional Salaries and Allowances, December 4, 2012:

Alternative Minimum Taxpayers by State: 2009, 2010, and Projections for 2012, December 4, 2012:

Offsets, Supplemental Appropriations, and the Disaster Relief Fund: FY1990-FY2012, December 4, 2012:

The Bayh-Dole Act: Selected Issues in Patent Policy and the Commercialization of Technology, December 3, 2012:

Technology Transfer: Use of Federally Funded Research and Development, December 3, 2012:

Industrial Competitiveness and Technological Advancement: Debate Over Government Policy, December 3, 2012:

Cooperative R&D: Federal Efforts to Promote Industrial Competitiveness, December 3, 2012:

IMF Reforms: Issues for Congress, December 4, 2012:

China's Economic Conditions, December 4, 2012:

Federal Emergency Management: A Brief Introduction, November 30, 2012:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News blog is at:

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, go to:


OR email your request to

Secrecy News is archived at:

SUPPORT the FAS Project on Government Secrecy with a donation here: