Criminal Law

Espionage and Related Offenses - Offenses Involving National Defense and Weapons of Mass Destruction

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November 1, 2005GUIDELINES MANUAL§2M3.6


Statutory Provisions: 18 U.S.C. § 794; 42 U.S.C. §§ 2274(a), (b), 2275.

Application Notes:

1. "Top secret information" is information that, if disclosed, "reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security." Executive Order 12356.

2. The Commission has set the base offense level in this subpart on the assumption that the information at issue bears a significant relation to the nation’s security, and that the revelation will significantly and adversely affect security interests. When revelation is likely to cause little or no harm, a downward departure may be warranted. See Chapter Five, Part K (Departures).

3. The court may depart from the guidelines upon representation by the President or his duly authorized designee that the imposition of a sanction other than authorized by the guideline is necessary to protect national security or further the objectives of the nation’s foreign policy.

Background: Offense level distinctions in this subpart are generally based on the classification of the information gathered or transmitted. This classification, in turn, reflects the importance of the information to the national security.

Historical Note:: Effective November 1, 1987.

§2M3.2. Gathering National Defense Information

(a) Base Offense Level:

(1) 35, if top secret information was gathered; or

(2) 30, otherwise.


Statutory Provisions: 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (g), 1030(a)(1). For additional statutory provision(s), see Appendix A (Statutory Index).

Application Notes:

1. See Commentary to §2M3.1.

2. If the defendant is convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 793(d) or (e), §2M3.3 may apply. See Commentary to §2M3.3.

Background: The statutes covered in this section proscribe diverse forms of obtaining and transmitting national defense information with intent or reason to believe the information would

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