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Shhhh. No one can know what you’re up to here, lest you breach one of England’s toughest laws.

It’s the Official Secrets Act; the same piece of legislation designed to keep journalists and others from obtaining sensitive information on British national security also applies to activities on the Royal Air Force installations hosting U.S. Air Force units.

Established in 1911, and amended as recently as 1989, the act is basically designed to keep people in the know from releasing sensitive information. But it also reminds public servants that espionage is frowned upon, according to a British government Web site dedicated to the act.

And the government takes it seriously.

A former British intelligence agent, Richard Tomlinson, was imprisoned in 1997 for violating the Official Secrets Act by attempting to publish a book detailing his career in the British secret service, according to a British Broadcasting Corp. report.

More recently, a translator working for the Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent to the National Security Agency, was charged with leaking information that American intelligence officers had asked the British to tap the phone of U.N. Security Council members voting to authorize the war in Iraq.

Katherine Gun, who created a media firestorm with her defiance of the British government, was ultimately acquitted despite acknowledging she had sent the leak to a British newspaper, according to the BBC.

The U.S. Air Force has a more subtle way to remind servicemembers to keep it zipped: Practice good op sec.

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: uknews@estripes.osd.mil


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