What Is Graymail to National Security?

In court issues involving national security, there are two main issues at stake: the right of every United States citizen to have a fair trial and the government’s responsibility to not disclose certain information that could be dangerous if released. When a defendant attempts to graymail, sometimes at the advice of a graymail lawyer, the court must make a tough decision between disclosing the information or not prosecuting the defendant.

The main issue in cases involving graymail is whether or not the requested information is essential to the case and would significantly compromise United States security if released. A trial cannot be fair unless all relevant information is taken into consideration. Therefore, the job of a graymail lawyer would be to help convince the court that the information in question is vital to the case at hand.

What Is Considered Graymail?

Graymail, in regard to national security, is the threat of using classified government information for the benefit of defense in criminal court. In some cases, a defendant may threaten to disclose information that they already have. In other cases, they may request information that is classified to be used as evidence during the trial. A defendant and their lawyer may do so in order to attempt to avoid a conviction.

Why Does the Government Need to Classify Information?

In a world where terrorism, violence, and war are real problems and possibilities, it is important for a nation to protect itself. While certain information about government procedures and plans is made available to the public, there are some types of information that could be dangerous if the world was aware of them. In the interest of national security, the government decides to keep certain documents under tight watch.

Some examples of information that would be a threat to security if shared include:

  • Military defense strategies
  • Military intelligence data
  • Information concerning military technology
  • Information regarding international relations and diplomacy

Because so many cases of graymail are relevant to military personnel, it can be helpful to have the aid of a military lawyer.

Improper Handling of Classified Information

Espionage is the term given to describe the crime of gathering sensitive government information in secret. The Espionage Act makes it illegal to disclose information that has been deemed classified by the United States government. The Classified Information Procedures Act also holds the court responsible for protecting classified information, even from defendants who are on trial. Someone who is convicted for incorrectly handling classified information could face charges of Dereliction of Duty, Failure to Obey Order or Regulation, and/or Espionage.

How Classified Information Is Handled in Court

If it is decided that classified information needs to be released for the sake of a case, there are careful and specific guidelines as to how the court is to handle the information. These are outlined in the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). Some of these procedures include the following.

  • Protective Orders: Protective orders are issued by a district court when requested by the government. This happens early on in a case where classified information may be requested. This initial order protects against sensitive information being released.
  • Summaries for Discovery: Section four of the CIPA allows for the court to release certain classified information in summaries to the defendant if it is necessary for their defense.
  • Pretrial Evidentiary Hearing: This requires a defendant who plans to share classified information to give the court advance notice of what information he/she plans to share.
  • Substitutions of Information: In cases where the government has allowed the court to share classified information, certain unclassified substitutes may be put into place for some information. These are granted in cases where the substitutes cover important information without taking away any substance of information that the defendant needs.


Q: What Does Graymail Mean in the CIA?

A:  In regard to the CIA, graymail describes a specific defense strategy that some people use when on trial. In hopes of getting out of a certain charge, defense teams will request a very large amount of classified government documents or threaten to share confidential information about the government. The hope is that they will either intimidate the government into dismissing their case or refuse to give them the information, which they will then argue is necessary for a fair trial.

Q: Is Graymail Always Bad?

A: While graymail is usually referred to with a negative tone, there are cases in which it is necessary for an individual to request classified documents from the government in order to receive a truly fair trial. Although they may be accused by others of graymailing, that may not be the case.

There is a difference between the court needing classified information to understand the full scope of a case when attempting to determine innocence or guilt and deceptively attempting to evade responsibility for a crime.

Q: What Is Graymail?

A: Graymail refers to emails that are sent in bulk to recipients who have, at some point, signed up to receive them. Individuals can sign up for these types of emails knowingly or sometimes unknowingly. Graymail is also a term that was coined by the CIA to describe the defense strategy of certain persons who are on trial and attempting to use sensitive government information to avoid being prosecuted.

Q: Is Graymail the Same as Blackmail?

A: Graymail and blackmail are two different things. Blackmail refers to the demand for some form of payment in exchange for not releasing sensitive or classified information. It is treated as a criminal offense and is sometimes referred to as extortion. Graymail refers to the threat to share governmental secrets, whereas blackmail is usually in regard to individuals or businesses.

Contact Aaron Meyer Law

If you are in the process of a court proceeding where graymail is involved or believe it may be in the future, reach out to Aaron Meyer Law to learn how we can help. With years of extensive experience in both the military and law, our experienced attorney can defend you strategically.

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