Ex-Navy linguist fails in challenge to federal law

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 - 2:12 pm

Ex-Navy linguist James Hitselberger has failed in his constitutional challenge to the federal law under which he's charged with taking national security documents.

In an 11-page decision, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras kept the charges against Hitselberger intact. The judge has previously rejected other defense efforts to dismiss or narrow the case.

Hitselberger is fluent in Arabic, Farsi, and Russian. In June 2011, he was hired by Global Linguist Solutions, which assigned him to work for the United States Navy at a base in Bahrain.

Navy investigators subsequently reported finding secret documents in Hitselberger's quarters and, in one of several unusual touches to this case, in a Hoover Institution collection that Hitselberger made available to the think tank at Stanford University.

The 56-year-old Hitselberger claimed the phrase "relating to the national defense" covers too much information to draw a clear line between criminal and non-criminal conduct, and claimed the phrase "used to the injury of the United States" was likewise too vague.

Contreras wrote:

"Mr. Hitselberger’s vagueness challenge is particularly unpersuasive in light of the alleged content of the documents he retained. The documents contained highly sensitive information, including information about U.S. troop movements, activities in the region, the availability of improvised explosive devices, and gaps in U.S. intelligence of the political situation in Bahrain. 

These documents were marked as SECRET...even if the classification system is not 100% accurate, as Mr. Hitselberger claims, his training places him on notice that the government considers information contained in classified documents important to national security."



Read more articles by Michael Doyle

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