Singapore's response to dealing with Wikileaks--devil is in the details

Singapore's response to dealing with Wikileaks--devil is in the details

Summary: The papers last week screamed of the parliamentary debates involving Wikileaks. It was reported that recipients of the leaked information as well as those publishing it would be prosecuted.

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The papers last week screamed of the parliamentary debates involving Wikileaks. It was reported that recipients of the leaked information as well as those publishing it would be prosecuted.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam cited that under the Official Secrets Act, anyone with a role can be prosecuted.

At first glance from the headlines, it seems that mere receipt of leaked government information would be prosecutable. Alarmingly, the reports suggested that receiving an e-mail containing such information, even though one did not ask for it, or flipping open your daily newspaper could be criminal acts. However, that would not be accurate.

The law generally requires two features before criminal sanction can be imposed: an act (actus reus) and the intention to act (mens reus). Mere receipt would not be sufficient to impose legal liability.

A quick check on the Official Secrets Act supports the Minister's statement--some further role would be required--a person who comes into possession of official information commits an offence if he uses or retains the information without permission, or had some desire to receive such official information.

The rest of us can sleep easy.

Topics: Singapore, Collaboration, Security

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