An Official Secrets Act (OSA) is legislation that provides for the protection of state secrets and official information, mainly related to national security but in unrevised form (based on the UK OSA 1911) can include all information held by government bodies.
OSAs are currently in-force in over 40 countries (mostly former British colonies) including Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Myanmar, Uganda, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom, and have previously existed in Canada and New Zealand.
There were earlier English and British precedents, long before the acts enumerated here. As early as the 16th Century, following Francis Drake's circumnavigation, Queen Elizabeth I declared that all written accounts of Drake's voyages were to become the 'Queen's secrets of the Realm'. In addition, Drake and the other participants of his voyages were sworn to their secrecy on the pain of death; the Queen intended to keep Drake's activities away from the eyes of rival Spain.
People working with sensitive information are commonly required to sign a statement to the effect that they agree to abide by the restrictions of the Official Secrets Act. This is popularly referred to as "signing the Official Secrets Act". Signing this has no effect on which actions are legal, as the act is a law, not a contract, and individuals are bound by it whether or not they have signed the act. Signing it is intended more as a reminder to the person that they are under such obligations. To this end, it is common to sign this statement both before and after a period of employment that involves access to information classified as 'secret' (e.g. MI5/MI6).
In addition to the Official Secrets Acts, the Naval Discipline Act 1957 made it an offence to spy on-board Royal Navy ships or overseas bases. It was punishable by life imprisonment.This was a capital offence until 1981.
22 prosecutions occurred under the Official Secrets Act in Canada, over half of which were in relation to the Gouzenko Affair. In 1989, Stephen Joseph Ratkai was charged and convicted under the Act, of espionage in relation to the SOSUS network site at Naval Station Argentia in Newfoundland.
The phrase official secrets act may also be used to refer to statutes of a similar nature in other countries. Canada's Official Secrets Act was replaced in 2001 by similar legislation titled the Security of Information Act (which was created in the wake of September 11th 2001 to replace the vaguely worded Official Secrets Act).
The United States does not have a broad-reaching Official Secrets Act, although the Espionage Act of 1917 has similar components. Much of the Espionage Act remains in force, although some has been struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional because of the First Amendment (See United States v. The Progressive , Brandenburg v. Ohio , New York Times Co. v. United States ). 18 U.S.C. § 798, enacted in 1951, makes dissemination of secret information involving cryptography, espionage, and surveillance illegal for all people, and is thus an "official secrets act" limited to those subjects.
In the Republic of Ireland the Official Secrets Act, 1963 repealed previous British legislation of 1911 and 1920. The Official Secrets Act, as amended, applies to all civil servants and potentially anyone within the state. A suit may only be instigated at the approval of the Attorney General of Ireland, additionally proceedings may occur in camera but the verdict and any sentence must occur in public.[ citation needed ]
Malaysia has an Official Secrets Act (also referred to as the OSA) prohibiting the collection, possession or distribution of information marked as an official secret—an action which can be made by any public officer. The certification of a document as an official secret is not subject to judicial review, and a violation of the act is punishable with between one and seven years' imprisonment. The act has been controversial for its use to silence dissent and stifling anti-corruption activities.
Australia previously had Part VII of the Crimes Act 1914 (Commonwealth), entitled Official Secrets and Unlawful Soundings (since repealed and replaced with Part 5.6 - Secrecy of Information of the Criminal Code Act (1995) ).
OSA “covers more than just information that is secret”, media law experts pointed out. “As long as the information in the latter category has one of the connecting factors mentioned, such as if it has been obtained by someone due to his position holding office under the Government, then it will be protected by the Act even if it is not secret,”
Treason is the crime of attacking a state authority to which one owes allegiance. This typically includes acts such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.
The Espionage Act of 1917 is a United States federal law passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. It has been amended numerous times over the years. It was originally found in Title 50 of the U.S. Code but is now found under Title 18. Specifically, it is 18 U.S.C. ch. 37
Immorality Act was the title of two acts of the Parliament of South Africa which prohibited, amongst other things, sexual relations between white people and people of other races. The first Immorality Act, of 1927, prohibited sex between whites and blacks, until amended in 1950 to prohibit sex between whites and all non-whites. The second Immorality Act, of 1957, continued this prohibition and also dealt with many other sex offences. The ban on interracial sex was lifted in 1985, but certain sections of the 1957 act dealing with prostitution remain in force as the "Sexual Offences Act, 1957".
Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward rebellion against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent toward, or insurrection against, established authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Seditious words in writing are seditious libel. A seditionist is one who engages in or promotes the interest of sedition.
The Prevention of Terrorism Acts were a series of Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1974 to 1989 that conferred emergency powers upon police forces where they suspected terrorism.
The Federal Constitution of Malaysia, which came into force in 1957, is the supreme law of Malaysia. The Federation was initially called the Federation of Malaya and it adopted its present name, Malaysia, when the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore became part of the Federation. The Constitution establishes the Federation as a constitutional monarchy having the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Head of State whose roles are largely ceremonial. It provides for the establishment and the organisation of three main branches of the government: the bicameral legislative branch called the Parliament, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate ; the executive branch led by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers; and the judicial branch headed by the Federal Court.
The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1983 was an amendment to the Constitution of Ireland which inserted a subsection recognising the equal right to life of the pregnant woman and the unborn. Abortion had been subject to criminal penalty in Ireland since 1861; the amendment ensured that legislation or judicial interpretation would be restricted to allowing abortion in circumstances where the life of a pregnant woman was at risk. It was approved by referendum on 7 September 1983 and signed into law on 7 October 1983.
Blasphemous libel was originally an offence under the common law of England. Today, it is an offence under the common law of Northern Ireland, but has been abolished in England and Wales, and repealed in Canada and New Zealand. It consists of the publication of material which exposes the Christian religion to scurrility, vilification, ridicule, and contempt, with material that must have the tendency to shock and outrage the feelings of Christians. It is a form of criminal libel.
Misprision of treason is an offence found in many common law jurisdictions around the world, having been inherited from English law. It is committed by someone who knows a treason is being or is about to be committed but does not report it to a proper authority.
The Offences against the Person Act 1861 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to offences against the person from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act. For the most part these provisions were, according to the draftsman of the Act, incorporated with little or no variation in their phraseology. It is one of a group of Acts sometimes referred to as the Criminal Law Consolidation Acts 1861. It was passed with the object of simplifying the law. It is essentially a revised version of an earlier Consolidation Act, the Offences Against the Person Act 1828, incorporating subsequent statutes.
Preventive detention is an imprisonment that is putatively justified for non-punitive purposes, most often to prevent (further) criminal acts. Preventive detention, the practice of incarcerating accused individuals before trial on the assumption that their release would not be in the best interest of society—specifically, that they would be likely to commit additional crimes if they were released.
Northern Irish law refers to the legal system of statute and common law operating in Northern Ireland since the partition of Ireland established Northern Ireland as a separate jurisdiction within the United Kingdom in 1921. Prior to 1921, Northern Ireland was part of the same legal system as the rest of Ireland.
The Official Secrets Act 1911 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It replaces the Official Secrets Act 1889.
The Official Secrets Act 1989 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that repeals and replaces section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911, thereby removing the public interest defence created by that section.
The Official Secrets Act 1972, is a statute in Malaysia prohibiting the dissemination of information classified as an official secret. The legislation is based on the Official Secrets Act of the United Kingdom. After criticism of the act for lacking clarity, it was amended in 1986.
The Internal Security Act (ISA) of Singapore is a statute that grants the executive power to enforce preventive detention, prevent subversion, suppress organized violence against persons and property, and do other things incidental to the internal security of Singapore. The present Act was originally enacted by the Parliament of Malaysia as the Internal Security Act 1960, and extended to Singapore on 16 September 1963 when Singapore was a state of the Federation of Malaysia.
The Criminal Law Act 1967 (c.58) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made some major changes to English criminal law, as part of wider liberal reforms by the Labour government elected in 1966. Most of it is still in force.
A sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as crimes. The precise sexual acts meant by the term sodomy are rarely spelled out in the law, but are typically understood by courts to include any sexual act deemed to be unnatural or immoral. Sodomy typically includes anal sex, oral sex, and bestiality. In practice, sodomy laws have rarely been enforced against heterosexual couples, and have mostly been used to target homosexuals.
The Official Secrets Act 1920 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The South African Protection of State Information Bill, formerly named the Protection of Information Bill and commonly referred to as the Secrecy Bill, is a highly controversial piece of proposed legislation which aims to regulate the classification, protection and dissemination of state information, weighing state interests up against transparency and freedom of expression. It will replace the Protection of State Information Act, 1982, which currently regulates these issues.